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Art Consultancy: Exciting careers in the art business

The demand for youth educated in art history, appreciation, and administration is at an all-time high. Suddenly career prospects in this booming new industry have become hugely rewarding.

A mere blip on the global art scene until recently, contemporary Indian art is suddenly ubiquitous —at Christies, Sothebys, Bonhams among other international art auction houses. At a Christies auction in September 2005, Mahishasura, an oil canvas by Tyeb Mehta sold for an unprecedented Rs.7 crore. In March 2007, an untitled work of VS Gaitonde and several paintings of the late Amrita Shergil were purchased by an Indian collector for Rs.6.9 crore — a price 6,900 percent higher than the Rs.10 lakh they had been sold for in 1992. Currently, the annual turnover of India’s art trade is estimated at a mind-boggling Rs.5,000 crore of which more than 60 percent is contributed by international auction houses.

With fortunes in India’s burgeoning art mart multiplying, the bandwagon is getting crowded. Art galleries are mushrooming countrywide and indigenous auction houses such as Osians and Saffron Art are earning huge commission incomes. Even several art funds are in the pipeline including an Osians mutual fund for art. Osians Pvt. Ltd, a high profile Mumbai-based art evaluation and auction firm, recently sold five percent of its equity to an American fund for Rs.11.2 crore which gives this company promoted in 2000 by art entrepreneur Neville Tuli, a valuation of Rs.224 crore.

Little wonder that the demand for youth educated in art history and administration is at an all-time high. Suddenly career prospects in this new industry have become exciting and rewarding.

STUDY PROGRAMMES. Against this backdrop its hardly surprising that theres a rush of interest in art appreciation, art history, and art administration study programmes. Among the most reputed art study programmes are the Masters in art criticism and art history offered by MS University, Baroda; the 12-month programme in Indian art and aesthetics offered by Mumbai University and the BA and MA degree programmes in art history and studio practice of Stella Maris College, Chennai. However, a large and growing number of art-oriented youth study abroad where a plethora of programmes are offered by universities and auction houses such as Sothebys and Christies, whose short-term art appreciation courses are highly reputed and offer the prospect of immediate employment. Moreover Osians is planning a university for the arts in Delhi, which will offer study programmes in art history, appreciation etc. For well-qualified professionals start-up salaries in Indian galleries and auction houses are a handsome Rs.25,000–40,000 per month.

A whole new market has emerged for art and artists in which buyers are becoming increasingly savvy. However, investing in a painting is a complex transaction demanding hard-nosed diligence and an emotional connection from buyers. This is not very easy in a market where art education is negligible and where support infrastructure such as a credible price index, insurance, informed literature, and indeed the auction itself is nascent,” says Shireen Gandhy, the knowledgeable proprietor-director of Gallery Chemould, a pioneer and highly respected art house-cum-gallery in Mumbai.

Born into a family steeped in the creative arts—her father, Kekoo Gandhi, a doyen of the Indian art movement founded Gallery Chemould (sited within the Jehangir Art Gallery) in 1963 — immediately after being awarded her BA degree from Sophia College in 1987, Gandhy emplaned for London where she completed a one-year postgraduate diploma course in art administration at City University.

Following her return from London and incremental involvement in the family business, Gallery Chemould has grown from strength to strength. I intend to curate every exhibition differently by reflecting each artists personality and thus the character behind the canvas. We also organise lectures, art events, and catalogues to educate people about artists and art,” she says. Supported by a highly trained staff of eight personnel, Gandhy is the first Indian gallery proprietor to participate in major international art fairs.

According to Gandhy, job opportunities galore for youth with professional training in art appreciation. Theres growing demand for professionals who can understand and manage temperamental artists as well as clients who require expert advice on art purchasing. Galleries also have to be well maintained and administered to inspire confidence. Therefore for multi-faceted professionals working as gallerists, art dealers, consultants, or auction house professionals, the pay and work conditions are excellent,” says Gandhy.

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