Turning lessons into leadership
Christina Busuttil (Christie’s Education London MLitt 2016) writes about setting up her new company, Artemisia Fine Art and Antiques.
Writing this means that one of the greatest experiences of my life is sadly already behind me. It’s been 5 months since my M.Litt Fine & Decorative Art (Renaissance to Modernism) programme ended. Today, my time is split between various activities relating to Artemisia Fine Arts & Antiques, my company, from touring art fairs to networking events. I’ve even started back at Christie’s Education London, studying art business in the evenings.
Prior to my life at Christie’s, I took an undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Theatre Studies ten years ago before moving into my family business, Francis Busuttil & Sons Ltd; Foster Clark Products Limited’s sister company, for almost 8 years. Most of that time saw me running the Wines & Spirits division working alongside illustrious global brands such as Laurent Perrier, Glenfiddich, Taylor’s Port, Luxardo, De Kuyper Liqueurs and many more. Two fantastic opportunities presented themselves during this time: I chaired a two-year term at the Malta Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Wines, Spirits & Tobacco’ trade group and had the once-in-a lifetime chance to become a European-based Brand Ambassador for William Grant & Sons, a company I have endless admiration for.
Whilst always fascinated by the arts, my professional life saw me gravitate towards business enterprise and it was the Christie’s Education Art, Law and Business MSc that initially caught my eye, but I’m glad I went with the M.Litt first! The programme is extremely well designed; it combines an expansive and intensive study of art history (covering a vast breadth of artworks and artefacts dating between c.1450 to c.1930) along with various art-critical approaches and curatorial studies; all this is supplemented by first class cataloguing skills, hands-on training and dreamy school visits. I feel the course transformed my understanding, perception and attitude to both the fine and decorative arts. I took away some important skills, lessons and opportunities from this course:
1) the knowledge and ability to ask the right questions when presented with an unfamiliar artwork, which has given me a systematic approach to achieve logical and confident judgments — indispensable to the aspiring connoisseur
2) a genuine respect for all art objects’ integrity — irrespective of my personal preferences — which is reflected in the way I handle an object now, both in my curatorial choices and in applying the appropriate value. I was also taught excellent cataloguing skills!
3) the opportunity to meet students from across the globe and network with the very people who will invariably land some of the best positions the art market has to offer.
I’m still a Christie’s student, this time attending The Art Business Certificate. As the name implies, it focuses on all business related aspects of the art market and the professional industries servicing it: auction houses, museums, logistics, freeports, art valuation, art law, art tax and working with artists; all enormously valuable to me since Artemisia is set up across both the primary and secondary art market and offers an array of art professional services. The course allows me to apply what I’m learning directly to my business, and I feel more confident and informed when speaking to industry professionals. And I still do what I started off doing 17 months ago, researching potential artists, visiting dealers (where possible finding solutions for them to sell their inventory) and attending as many exhibitions and trade fairs as I can.
So far I’ve managed to attend at least about a dozen major art fairs — Frieze, Masterpiece, the Goldsmith’s Fair, The Decorative Art Fair, to mention a few. I have fairs like TEFAF (Maastricht) booked in for March, followed by both the ‘Biennale des Antiquaires’ in Paris and the ‘Biennale Internazionale di Antiquariato di Firenze’ in September. At every fair I have been networking, trying to understand who the major players are, what they’re selling, the prices they’re selling at, who they’re selling too, how exhibitors choose to curate their stalls and so on. Seeing all this with my own eyes supplements all the information I have on the trade from trade magazines, trade reports and the press. The research may feel slow, especially for someone who is result-driven, but it has proven fruitful already.
I am currently working on finalising a new website for Artemisia, and am on the lookout for business associates, from web content writers to contemporary artists to support with well-designed, lucrative packages. Maintaining and developing my current dealer partnerships whilst securing new ones also takes a lot of my time.
My long-term goals include, but are not limited to, organising art-related symposia, developing my current educational profile with a PhD (possibly analysing and developing the conclusions from my thesis, In Memoriam: Ruins in British Art 1770–1830), starting a fund for individuals seeking to support their post-graduate research in the Arts and consultancy for governmental institutions on their collections and business enterprise. I feel I have achieved so much already, and I cannot wait to achieve more!