12 May 2009

Straying Off Course

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Of late, there have been several queries regarding courses in art appreciation and workshops on painting and sculpture. It just goes to show how the awareness and interest in art has grown in proportion to the art market. There is an ever widening audience that wants to know more about various aspects of art, but, unfortunately, avenues to fulfill these remain rather limited. Most art colleges offer a fixed set of conventional courses which cover full time programmes in various branches of fine arts such as painting, applied arts, sculpture and art history amongst others. However, with the growth in the art mart, there has been a spurt in demand for affiliated services such as art advisory services. Also, there is a need for courses that address the business aspect of the market. Art writing, curation, investment, valuations, appraisals are some of the key areas that need to be addressed through specifically designed programmes for art professionals. Of these, to the best of my knowledge, there are very few courses that are offered either as a degree diploma, or a certificate course in any of the fine art institutes in the country. There is no shortage of fine art colleges (comparatively speaking) in the country, but these are geared towards conventional disciplines rather than towards professional courses that support ancillary services relating to the business of art. What this means then is that the art market is buzzing with professionals lacking in necessary qualifications and this further adds to the chaos that characterizes the Indian art market.

A look at an international auction house’s official website reveals short term courses in Art Law, Ethics and the Art market, Art Valuation, and a number of other equally relevant courses, while semester programmes in Art and Business, and masters in various aspects of contemporary art are offered. It appears that the business of art is taken extremely seriously and efforts are made to plug the gaps that may occur due to lack of knowledge. As an auction house it makes a lot of business sense as well to address these topics. In India we are lacking behind sorely in imparting professional education in most fields and the same is happening in fine arts too. On the other hand, the business segment in art has grown exponentially, while the number of professionals who can authenticate art, provide valuation or information on copyrights and other legal issues are negligible. One can only hope that such programmes tackling the business side of the art market are initiated in the near future, as this will establish greater credibility and confidence in the market.

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