Categories: Opinion

Creative entrepreneur Radha Kapoor Khanna sheds light on the role of art connoisseurs

The world of art is an intriguing one. The themes, the colors, and the canvas all come together to form a symphony that is admirable by all but understood only by those who have a keen eye. To know how to appreciate art is an art itself, something that art connoisseurs across the globe have mastered through the passage of time and experience. And this art of appreciating art has emerged as quite a lucrative career option as well.

But what exactly does it mean to be an art connoisseur? What does the role entail? How can one pursue it as a full-time career? How do art connoisseurs bridge the gap between artists and art lovers? We talked to creative entrepreneur Radha Kapoor Khanna to understand all this and much more. Read on to know all about the role of art connoisseurs in the world of art:

Who is an Art Connoisseur?

The term in itself often baffles people, since people often confused art connoisseurs to be nothing more than mere art buffs. However, according to creative entrepreneur Radha Kapoor Khanna, an art connoisseur can be equated with an expert wine-taster by the virtue of having a more refined and intricate knowledge about artists and their art. Their knowledge is built not only on experience but also on intuition and personal taste.

However, the concept of art connoisseurs is not something entirely new. The rise of the connoisseur came simultaneously as the private collector, in a world where far more people were able to leverage their opinion and influence. It is also a natural consequence of time when more and more art is available to see and for sale. Where once the elite was the aristocracy, the connoisseur was the elite spokesperson for a middle-class keen to consume conspicuously and to demonstrate their claims to taste and finer discernment. 

Art Connoisseurship through the History

Looking through the pages of history makes one thing quite evident: that art connoisseurship was never limited to articulating one’s personal taste in artists and art at large. It was a legit source of income for connoisseurs who could easily find patrons amongst the elites of the world. One fine example of this can be found in French philosopher and art critic Denis Diderot, whose most reliable source of income in his entire life came from the court of Catherine the Great of Russia.

The Russian Empress had a keen interest in art, and she frequently sought Diderot’s services in making significant purchases of art treasures from France and the Netherlands to grace what she planned to be her Francophile, newly enlightened empire. Many of the great works of the Hermitage are thanks to Diderot’s endeavors. And what Diderot started during the Age of Enlightenment, was magnified years later by Baron Duveen during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Duveen’s most famous saying, ‘Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money’, said a lot about his enterprise. He made a fortune out of the decline of the old families and in turn aided the rise of the American financial empires. His clientele comprised the who’s-who of art collection: Frick, Hearst, Huntington, Morgan, Kress, Mellon, and Rockefeller. Point to a handful of masterworks in one of the American collections, and chances are Duveen had a hand in at least a couple.

Modern Connoisseurs and their Role

Despite the highly digitized 21st century, art connoisseurship has only gained ground during the recent times. Art critics and advisers such as Lisa Schiff, Susie Pollen, and Jo Baring have made millions out of facilitating art deals. And to add to this list are connoisseurs associated with fine arts companies which are not only collecting art but also creating a pool of talented individuals with a keen eye for artistic inclinations. One such example can be seen in Gaurav Bhatia, a luxury and lifestyle marketer and former MD of Sotheby’s India, who is now running his own luxury and lifestyle advisory company, Maison. In his thriving career of being an art connoisseur he has learnt to instantly spot quality in art in all its subtle gradations. He can examine the real thing, keep his eye in tune, and distinguish the good from the bad. For patrons, Gaurav Bhatia helps in picking out exclusive art work that resonates with their requirements, be it prestige, investment, diversifying portfolio, or lifestyle choice.

According to creative entrepreneur Radha Kapoor Khanna, the importance of art connoisseurs has increased more in modern times. “Contrary to what many would expect, the art world has exploded in the recent years. It is always good to seek valuable advice from an expert to not just gain a better understanding of various artistic concepts, but also to distinguish the real art pieces from fake ones,” she says. Art connoisseurs strive to be infallible, which is often reflected in the quality of the collections they help curate.

To be able to appreciate art for what it is, is a form of art in its own right. And connoisseurship offers a chance for people with a knack for art to hone it and celebrate it.

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