Q & A: Exclusive London Art Tours with Pujan Gandhi

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I was first introduced to the art world by my good friend Pujan Gandhi. His enthusiasm, intellect and guidance drew me into this other beautiful dimension I knew nothing about, or rather, was too intimidated to appreciate. As a filmmaker and artist myself you would think this wouldn’t be the case, but let’s be honest, the art world can be intimidating. Most of us would rather window gaze at a piece of art in the rain than dare step inside an actual gallery.  The snooty looks! The artspeak! The shame! Non, merci! Enter Pujan stage right. In his own quirky, fun, and incredibly impressive way, Pujan has opened the door for me – and he can for you too.

This month (July 12th and 19th to be exact), he’ll be offering an intimate guided tour through Soho and Mayfair to explore the works of some famous female artists. His vast artistic knowledge and articulate descriptions will impress both newbies and art veterans alike. Expect 2.5 hours of stimulating visuals followed by a refreshing discussion about your reactions to the work and the philosophies of art over drinks at a nearby pub. And let’s not forget, you’ll be strolling through one of the most beautiful parts of London as you gallery hop! For purposes of intimacy, he keeps groups cropped at 10 people, so I would suggest contacting him ASAP at pujankgandhi(at)gmail.com to hold your spot. Only £20 per person.

MF and I joined him on one of his tours last May and found it to be absolutely brilliant! I’ve since asked Pujan to answer a few questions about his globe-trotting career as an art consultant, as well as share some insider knowledge on how to best navigate the art world.

Q & A WITH PUJAN GANDHI

Introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your background in art.

My name is Pujan Gandhi. My first formal Art History Course was my senior year of High School in Atlanta. I found that studying material culture made history tangible and creative–you couldn’t tear me away from the beautiful images in the textbook! At Middlebury, I was planning on becoming an Economics Major, but took an introduction to Asian Art course with Cynthia Packert and have looked at the world through the lens of art from then on. I’ve since worked in the contemporary arts in New York and then completed two degrees in Asian Art History at SOAS, University of London.

When did you know you wanted a career in the art world?

I took an internship at a gallery in Mumbai one summer and also in Beunos Aires, but I think it was my experience working under Emmie Donadio at the Middlebury College Museum of Art that gave me the confidence that this was a career for which I was particularly well suited–so I would say 2008?

What piece of art can you not stop thinking about?

Oh, so many! Just yesterday, I was transfixed by a French Painting(1480-1500) of the Virgin and Child on a small softwood panel that I saw at Sam Fogg. It was done by a French painter in the style of the Northern Renaissance Masters, and had such vitality and symbolism to it.

What questions should people be asking themselves when first observing a piece of art? 

1) Ask yourself what you see formally–think about the colours, shapes, materials, organization of space etc.

2) Look at the subject matter and think ‘what is going on in this work?’

3) In both of these regards, consider the choices a particular artist has made, for which social context and if you have it–the artist and/or patron’s biography proves useful.

What are the go-to streets in London to see some of the best galleries and artwork? 

In the east, Herald Street has some very interesting contemporary galleries. In Ftizrovia, in and around Eastcastle Street is a great afternoon. Then in Mayfair and St. James you will need a few days to see it all. There’s an art gallery or a private dealer on nearly every street I can think of. A group called ‘New Exhibitions’ follows contemporary art and produces a pretty good map that you can most likely find when you visit your first gallery.

What upcoming artists should people keep an eye on?

Are you asking me to be a market speculator?! There are so many artists, contemporary and historically, whose stars flicker in-and-out over the taste-cycles; look for substance (more subjective) and forms of consensus to bet on a canonical artist.  While a lot of the work I do for clients is in Classical Indian Art, I’ve just placed works by Mai-Thu Perret, Vivian Maier, and Jivya Soma Mashe that I am very excited about. Like any curator, I have an active ‘wish list’ of artists and works that I believe would contribute positively to the particular collections I work with.

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Tell us about your art tours?

The idea came about as I was already visiting so many of the exhibitions on my own and then went with friends and found the discussion produced by the interplay of works very rich. I thought it would be a good idea to organize an ‘illustrated lecture’ that would take an intimate group of engaged people through the often intimidating and sometimes hidden gallery doors.

What do you hope people will get out of the tours?

I hope people find it a fairly intense 2 1/2 hours of looking and discussing a variety of works and artists. It’s a beautiful, constantly changing and vast art-scape here in London; I suppose a guide with a sieve is helpful. People seem to enjoy it–if nothing else for a nice stroll through Mayfair–as I have some very loyal trekkers!

When is your next tour?

I’ll be running tours on July 12 and July 19th. They will be the last tours before the season starts again in September/October. At the moment there are several very good exhibitions that feature important and interesting female artists, so this round I would like to highlight their contribution and consider the gendered ‘gaze’. Traditional art history has a lot of catching-up to do in this regard.

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What is art to you?

A realm of obsessive observation–and to you?

What three things do you love about living in London? 

The parks, the cosmopolitan gatherings, and yes–the art.

Where are you going for your next work-related trip? 

I will be in New York for Asian Art sales in September. Thankfully, the art world simmers down and takes stock in the late summer.

How can people get in touch with you about art tours or using your services as an art consultant?

I typically work via word-of-mouth. Though, I have a linked-in profile that I receive messages on. I am looking to launch a website; art is entering a ‘Digital Age’ and I must as well!

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