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The art of curating
How does one go from a Sales Manager at an airline to the curator of one of Mumbai's most
well-reputed galleries? BAKHTAWAR SHROFF, of Cymroza Art Gallery, has the answers...
Art galleries are far and few,
how did you get into this
Today, art galleries are not far and few
— they are mushrooming at every street
corner, like a fashionable trend. However,
art galleries that have been in business for
many years, and stand for trust, reliability
and fair business, are definitely few and
I joined this field just a couple of years
ago after deciding not to pursue a career
in aviation. I was the Sales Manager for
Delta Air Lines and accepted a golden
handshake that was offered to all
employees in India. After having
accepted this, I was offered
re-employment. However, I decided to
make a clean break. Hence, in 2007, I
refused the re-employment and decided
to run our family business – Cymroza
What is a normal day at work
There is never a normal day at work. What
you plan to achieve in a day never gets
achieved. We always have walk-in clients
and walk-in artists and one can never
gauge how long each meeting will last.
Unlike the very structured world that I
came from, where we took an
appointment before we visited, this field is
completely different. Business is never cut
and dry; in fact, most of it is verbal and
fluid and based more on trust and mutual
co-operation. Some days are very busy
with setting up exhibitions and some days
are busy with clients. However, there are
also days that can be very dull, when
nobody walks in to view the exhibits.
Whatever it is, most days are very
interesting. There are always new people to
meet and new ideas to discuss. My days are
very flexible as this is a family business and
A customer viewing the artworks at Cymroza Art Gallery
The BPP Review 18 May–June 2011
I live right above the gallery. That way I
can wait back if someone is delayed or
even open the gallery on a holiday if
someone’s interested in seeing works. So,
in short, days are unstructured and fluid,
but, as I said, always interesting.
Art and its appreciators being
so niche, how lucrative is it as
a career? What are the kind
of investments involved?
The very basis of this business started
with a love for art. Today, it has become a
big business with everyone looking for
mega-bucks. Art was meant to give not
just economic satisfaction but also (and
very importantly) a satisfaction from the
cultural angle, which I would term as a
non-economic satisfaction. With art
suddenly becoming an 'investment item',
the words 'yields', 'returns' and 'profits'
came into the picture. To an extent, it
spoiled the market. The genuine buyers
started taking a backseat, while collectors
ruled the field. Art, to an extent, became
unaffordable for the common man or the
art lover. That is starting to change today,
with genuine art lovers once again coming
out to buy art at reasonable prices.
What are the kind of difficulties
you face with regard to people,
starry tantrums and
People are people, no matter what the
field. Hence, character, attitude and
behaviour are typical of each person,
whether they are artists, business
executives, entrepreneurs or just an art
lover. I havn't faced any difficulties with
tantrums or government policies as yet.
How is India placed in the
international art scene? Do
we have a long way to go?
India is very well-positioned in the
international art scene. Take, for example,
our masters: Souza, Hussain, Raza,
B. Prabha etc., who you will find in most
auctions. Not to mention our younger
artists, who are also being acclaimed
world-wide. We’re there already. We now
need to position our younger artists, who
have the potential but have not as yet had
their 'big break'.
Bakhtawar at the gallery with a customer
Would you recommend some
kind of basic academic
qualifications to aspiring
curators? Are there any
institutes that specialise in art
appreciation and curatorship?
Personally, I feel that art appreciation and
the ability to curate comes more with
viewing and analysing different types of
art on a regular basis. However, a person
from a basic art background (BFA or
MFA) does have an advantage.
What are the future plans for
your art gallery?
Cymroza has always been known for its
trust, reliability and integrity. I now want it
to be the 'Gallery of Choice' for the artist
and buyer community.