Talking About Art With Those Who Share My Passion

09/12/2014 8:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
In this photo taken Dec. 16, 2013, a visitor looks at an art work during a media preview of Christie's first auction in India.Christie's holds its first art auction in India on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 aiming to tap into a budding market for prestige purchasing among the country's fast-growing ranks of millionaires despite an economic slowdown. While overall Indian growth has been stalling, the number of people worth $1 million or more is expanding and they show no signs of slowing their spending, fueling double-digit growth in the luxury market for the past five years. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

It is Wednesday morning and I find myself waking up in Hong Kong, overlooking the harbour. Just a few days ago I was in Delhi, where we had a weekend exhibition of highlights from our upcoming second auction in India. In a few days I will be back in Mumbai, in one of my favourite places to stay, the Taj Mahal Palace, the venue for our auction on December 11th. When I am there, the hours will be swallowed up by a constant stream of visitors -- friends and collectors, some of whom have flown in from around India for the auction or to take a look at the works before deciding to bid remotely. I will spend the long days between Tuesday and Thursday of next week doing what I love the most -- talking about art with those who share my passion, both clients and colleagues.

But it can't all be work! I will take time to meet close friends in Mumbai and there is always the chance of happening upon or being invited to something completely unexpected, as always happens when traveling. Work won't stop in between as I battle with my new iPhone, whose keypad remains a challenge; my personal, and failing, Blackberry Bold; and my Indian Nokia mobile. These few days pass so fast and it is essential we take the opportunity of seeing as much as we can on the ground -- museums, galleries, private collections and new art spaces -- as well as managing the administration that makes the auction possible, such as registering clients to bid, providing them with information on tax, insurance and shipping, and every other aspect of the potential transaction.

By default I am always up early -- over Christmas I will catch up on sleep. My work involves looking after clients and they are based all over the world. When I am in Hong Kong or India, first of all I take care of overnight requests from America and then the emails from London, from colleagues and clients, which start pinging with frightening speed throughout the afternoon and into the night. Ours is a business that never sleeps -- auctions are constantly taking place in salerooms on three continents. The requests from clients are mostly condition reports, advice on works of art and appropriate bidding levels, and queries from first-time bidders or from those wanting to come along to view the works at the last minute. As a team we had much to learn last year about conducting an auction in a new environment: from making sure that everyone was fully conversant with lakhs and crores, to understanding the regulatory environment for registering new accounts and setting up bids. A massive administrative set-up was co-ordinated by colleagues both in the Mumbai office, the Dubai office and the rest of the world. Christie's on tour is a testament to the professionals who make it all happen, and we are doing it all again next week in India.

This year, as it is our second auction, the nerves will not be quite so high, as at least we know what to expect. a little adrenalin is not a bad thing; it is inevitable when we have worked so hard to put the sale together. It is all too easy to become so distracted by all the activity that you forget the reason we are all here and can attract the world's leading collectors to join us: the art itself. There are many frenetic moments -- handling the three phones around the clock -- but in between are the silent times when everyone is gone and when the exhibition space is just for me and I have a chance to linger in front of pictures that soon will disappear into private collections.

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