In Conversation With India's First Art Lawyer Debottam Bose

Debottam has worked with leading international law firms like Skadden, White and Case LLP, and Nishith Desai Associates among others before setting up his independent practice in a niche practice area. In this quick fireside chat with Chandril Chatopadhay, he shares what fascinated him towards a career in Art Law, his advice to young lawyers wanting to venture on a similar path and much more.

What motivated you to take up law as a career? 

Law allows you to think analytically and it’s a great foundation with training for thinking critically. On a lighter note, my friend from school was going to study law and I was never strong on science so I thought why not pursue a career in law.

How has the journey been working across various jurisdictions?

Incredible in short. The ability to work and interact with international lawyers and professionals in multiple jurisdictions is a skill and an art form. You meet a diverse set of lawyers and practitioners and it’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling. 

Art Law is a niche practice area necessitating the understanding of the background of the artwork, art history, authenticity of artwork, provenance and various other aspects. What was the starting point when you chose to integrate the aesthetics of art with the pragmatic challenges in law?

The people. The diversity and the international nature of art law and the ability to travel. 

Digital art and NFTs are a huge part of the art market today. Where do you see its future in the Indian legal framework?

 Still, in the early days as it is not legal in India. 

You have worked with leading firms like Skadden, White and Case LLP, and Nishith Desai Associates among others. How has the transition been from these leading firms to set up an independent international practice focusing on art law?

They all helped to create a strong foundation. Ultimately setting up a practice is daunting and challenging and it’s always a work in progress but I have had great mentors working in such prestigious law firms and first-class training. 

What role does Alternate Dispute Resolution have in the art law space? Where do you see the future importance of arbitral institutions for art like CAfA in the Netherlands and the art arbitration unit at Camera Arbitrale Venezia?

ADR is extremely important and necessary for any kind of dispute resolution especially when relationships need to be protected. It’s all about the costs and time management. Early days for them.

If one intends to pursue his or her career as an Art Lawyer, what should be the proper roadmap? Which institutions would be best suited for this specialized study and which chambers and firms can be looked at to learn the nuances of art law?

As I keep saying, first one needs to practice as a lawyer. Gain a wide experience and gain depth and skills as a lawyer and pursue one’s interest in art and law on the side and gain relevant work experience in this field. For students looking to pursue a career in Art Law, we offer a number of internships. 

Please suggest some books for our readers who are interested to learn more about art law or are willing to take it up as an area of practice.

The Art Law Handbook is a good start.

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