Today is my birthday. I’m in Rajasthan with my camera. I decided to spend my 46th birthday surrounded by Indian heritage and Indian art. I also decided to gift myself my own retirement plan this year – something that was incubating in my head – refused to get out for possibly over 20 years now! I decided to gift myself an Art Gallery at Lavasa! This is what I always wanted to do besides Assisted Reproduction. This story is about the making of one of the finest art galleries-to-be on the Indian sub-continent. I used to have a romantic notion of what it would be like to own an art gallery. To be surrounded with great art everyday, to work with artists I love, and to sell art to people that love art as much as me….But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
I haven’t owned an art gallery or worked at one, but I have had a close friend whos an artist to take me through the nitty-gritties of running one. Which took all of the romanticism out of the idea. There’s marketing, hanging, organizing the opening, air-smooching, air kissing, and when it’s all up and running, it’s just like looking after a shop. We shall cross the bridge when we come to it. The tentative date of launch being January 2010.
“The best art dealers are not salesmen in the classic sense of the word. Their passion and their connoisseurship and their knowledge have to combine to convince someone to acquire something that has no ostensible function in life, and that’s not always an easy thing to do. It is distinct from the normal business world because of that.”
In the three years of being associated with Lavasa and the team-Lavasa, I found only one more person who had as much passion for making Lavasa an art hub. He has far bigger plans than I have because he is the man who gave shape to his vision – Mr Ajit Gulabchand. He has plans to make an art-village in Lavasa that will celebrate Maharashtrian culture, art as well as everything Indian!
I have smaller dreams – getting Lavasa on the world art map with a well run art-gallery with India’s best “Artist-in-Residence’ program. It has taken almost two years on planning on the drawing boards. Pure passion and foolhardy financial courage (according to my wife!) has shaped the destiny of the art-gallery-to-be! There is a gallery I’ve seen in a small town in Mexico which is a family run operation, a small gallery that does everything from emerging to recognized international artists and they seem to do it as a labor of love.. that is where I’m aimed.. I think it is good to think outside the box. after all that is what we do when we create an art concept or painting, sculpture .. so why not think of creating a gallery in the same way..
We are now short-listing the staff at Lavasa – I am looking for an ex-art-teacher or a passionate art-lover who would not mind re-locating to Lavasa. For like-minded individuals, here are my requirements for the Vice-President, Art:
* If your motivation is purely financial, forget it. There are far too
many uncertainties in art.
* Those without any prior art back-ground need not apply.
* You have to be passionate about it. The “merely interested’ won’t cut it.
* You have to have a precise focus.
* In Lavasa, you have to be equally certain of loving the place more than the job.
* You have to have the ability to make both artists and collectors comfortable
* Then, if there is a secret ingredient, here it is: You have to have “a good eye.”
* In conclusion, you need a wide range of skills, you need to work hard, and
you can’t imagine for a moment that this going to be easy.
* You have to get along with your boss – however crazy he might look on
A couple of years ago, the Indian newspapers, magazines, TV channels & tabloids were full of art-news – Art was being projected as the next-get-rich-quick-sure-shot recipe.This is no get-rich-quick business.As Heller put it, There are so many better ways to make money. You either have to have a lot of savings, be personally wealthy or have backers because its very expensive.Indeed, the start-up costs are significant, which, for many gallerists, means outside funding is essential to get going. I think you have to have a reasonable amount of money before starting a gallery, rather than starting a gallery to make a lot of money. That way you can afford to show art that might be more daring and less commercial. After 19 years of private practice as a fertility physician, I dared to invest a large part of my savings into art. It is almost like my second innings in life going through my post-graduation exams all over again! The reading is more than what I remember reading in my Medical college years! I hope we get a stream of high-rollers & art lovers with good taste coming up to Lavasa. Yes, it’s tough to sell art to people that have no taste or no money. It takes a lot of money to do the real thing, and connections with wealthy buyers who also have taste. For the poor and the tasteless we have poster stores. But, if it’s any consolation, many of our museums show atrocities that will only be remembered in their own archives. These big organizations seem to be bent on abusing the attention of the public in the name of educating them. They are just following the crowd of other groupies to show overrated but well packaged crap. For instance, Dale Chihuly, a likeable guy with a big rep. But come on – he’s over-rated. He fills up space in public areas that need “something different”. What does a guy with 10 assistants have to show for his endless and repetitive production of mildly ornamental forms in glass? Chihuly has some good things but they are buried beneath the storm of mediocrity that he gets paid to ship and install. There is a dilution of art due to too much crap out there for the masses to digest. I remember Helen May Glickenstein – an art dealer from Virginia, USA telling me that until you have too many artists and too many collectors as a private dealer, do not open a space. I have not taken that advice very seriously. The most important thing is the real passion for what it is you are planning to embark on, because it is an emotional roller-coaster ride. If there is a single, basic requirement, this is it! You have to love art in some way or another to do it. I went into it because I like talking to artists and being with artists, and I like helping artists further their careers.
There are hundreds of galleries in India, dealing in dozens of different genres.You need to be certain of your area of specialization and stick to it.One of the most important [requirements] is to define the vision for the business as distinctly and succinctly as possible.From there, the rest generally falls in to place.I know that I will not dabble in Indian art – my focus is getting global art to India!I spent years finding the artists across five continents who I was interested in and figuring out what my eye was about and what my point of view was and how that all came together.I did not want to start in a cubby hole in Mumbai.I wanted to establish a gallery with huge open spaces. Mumbai was impossible with the real-estate as pricey as Manhattan. God got Nathan Andrews to sit next to me at an RCI dinner – next I met the Late Himanshu Saxena who was so very passionate about Lavasa. Then I followed my heart – Lavasa is, unquestionably, the most beautiful hill-station in this part of the world, and in such a crowded field in India, it can be difficult for a newcomer to get noticed. I know & believe that Lavasa will give me an opportunity to teach, live and discover Art.
You have to have the ability to make both artists and collectors comfortable with you.Everybody talks a lot about how important interpersonal skills are: Both artists and collectors tend to be pretty demanding characters, and you have to be able to bridge the gap between them. More than that, you have to want to. I have been mingling, eating, socializing and going on vacations with my artist friends across the world. They are all looking forward to spending quality time painting their symphonies at Lavasa. Artists don’t want to show with someone they don’t feel a connection to. You have to understand the work. You also have to understand collectors.Art is the ultimate luxury item, lets face it, so we want everybody to feel safe and secure when they are spending a lot of money on a work of art.
I want to make contemporary art accessible. The fact of the matter is most people dont know that much about art, and most people do not have a vast art history background. I decided that I was going to build an art gallery where artists were going to be there talking about their work, and I wanted it to be enriching. The gallery will was really a hybrid between education and a gallery. Certainly you have to be able to recognize quality in a work of art in its own terms – pictorial, sculptural, etc.but you also have to be able to comprehend it as a means of communication. You have to be able to appreciate how it sits within a cultural context, and how it relates to other art and other cultural objects and events. And then, as a dealer, you have to be able to comprehend art as a commodity: Will it sell? Its quite a balancing act. You really need a wide range of skills, you need to work hard, and you cant imagine for a moment that this going to be easy.
The most important thing when establishing an art gallery is to be patient. It is a business that takes time to flourish. You need time to establish connections with various art collectors, to market the gallery and find really good art that actually sells. A lot of it apart from running the actual ‘shop’ and having to deal with the day to day organization / management side of it, is PR. You have to devote quite a chunk of your time to PR the gallery. We take PR very seriously and have a lot of social media initiatives in place to let the world know that the “Ginger Giraffe” has come into this world! We had 9 months of solid research to choose the appropriate name for my baby – Ginger Giraffe is getting ready for a baby shower!
We had a Mexican firm jointly design the Ginger Giraffe with Toezer Contractor. Leonardo Diaz Borioli & Gerardo Sanchez Sendra from Guadalajara’s well known architectural design firm – Estudio Pi did the basic design. They were flown into India and spent time with the Lavasa Infrastructure team onsite in Portofino C. We hosted them in Mumbai and the Lavasa Corporation hosted them at their offices and congratulated them on their singular achievement of getting in Mexican art-forms and architecture for the first time into India since after Independence. The pictures here show Mr Rajgopal Nogja and Mr Nathan Andrews accepting the first blue-prints of the Ginger Giraffe design.
Leonardo Diaz-Borioli is from Mexico and a founding director of the global architecture firm ESTUDIO 3.14 with offices in Mexico and France. His studies took him to Florence, in Italy, Cambridge and Princeton in the United States, and Guadalajara in Mexico. Leonardo holds a Science Master of Architectural Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a second post-professional degree from Princeton University and is currently a PhD. candidate in the history theory and criticism of art, architecture, and urban form at Princeton University.Both his academic and design practices have been published in Europe, the United States, and México and he is the recipient of numerous awards that include architectural biennials and prestigious fellowships and grants. Leonardo is a specialist on Mexican architect Luis Barragán that is the topic of an upcoming book to
be published in Mexico by the ministry of culture.
Gerardo Sánchez-Sendra, his partner and CEO of the global architectural firm ESTUDIO 3.14 holds a Master in Business Administration from the Instituto Panamericano de Alta Dirección de Empresa (IPADE), a professional degree in Architecture from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO) and is an attendant to MIT professional Development courses on Real State. A teacher on the school of architecture in the “Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey” (ITESM) since 2007, his previous research includes “Suprematismo Re-Visiones”, a study on the Russian Suprematist movement.
Why Mexican architects & why Mexican architecture? The Ginger Giraffe has some other unique distinctions – singular to India! We are launching India’s first Sergio Bustamante boutique within the Ginger Giraffe. Sergio Bustamante is to Mexico what Mahendra Singh Dhoni is to India! American Express carries TV commercials with Mr Sergio Bustamante across Latin America. Though born in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, Sergio Bustamante has lived in the Guadalajara area since early childhood. In his youth, he studied architecture at the University of Guadalajara, but abandoned this pursuit when his talents and interests drew him to the fine arts and crafts. He began with paintings and paper mache figures, inaugurating the first exhibit of his works at the Galeria Misracha in Mexico City in 1966. In the early 1970’s, he traveled to Amsterdam, where he further developed his talents. After his return to Guadalajara, he established in 1975, along with other artists, the “Family Workshop Studio” in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico.
While Bustamante’s works initially focused on painting and paper mache, his talents inevitably led, in the mid-1970’s, to the creation of sculptures in wood and bronze, many reflecting animal themes. 1979 marked the inauguration of innovative furniture designs in wood and glass with bronze accents, currently available in distinctive patterns and motifs. The creation of ceramic sculptures in the mid-1980’s provided avenues for the use of color and form in ways not previously explored. In 1992, the initiation of an extensive line of exquisite jewelry in bronze, gold and silver, many set with precious and semi-precious stones and, again, often reflecting animal themes, marked a new and expansive direction for his creations. In this same year, a new series of paper mache sculptures was introduced. In the new millennium, Bustamante continues to explore uncharted paths for the further expression of his uniquely imaginative and gifted talents.Each piece belongs to a limited edition and is created by hand, therefore unique. A certificate of authenticity duly signed by the artists itself is attributed to each sculpture. All works are of very good quality, and pieces of small and big size up to four (4) meters high are available in the collection. It is amazing how Sergio Bustamante can project all that magic and fascination to each one of his works.
The art collection of many private residences, public buildings, and museums in every part of the planet has been enriched by Sergio Bustamante’s works. The Mexican government even elected them for official gifts to state governors and to high personalities. His works are more and more wanted around the globe (Mexico, United States, Japan, Europe, and recently Russia); therefore they will probably increase in value over the next years. The Ginger Giraffe will be the first step for Sergio Bustamante into the country that he loves & admires & had always longed to display his art in! We welcome Sergio Bustamante to India! Lavasa loves you, Sergio!