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Welcome to the Alumni Website! If you are a graduate of the program, please follow instructions to register to gain access to all pages of the alumni website. If you are here just taking a look around, we welcome you as well.

The Institute is committed to fostering and developing our international network of graduates and welcomes all graduates to be active members of our Alumni Association. Graduates of Sotheby's Institute of Art remain connected to the Institute and represent the art organizations they work for are situated all over the world. By establishing a private Alumni Website, we hope to keep you engaged and up-to-date with the current happenings at the Institute, give you new information on Alumni benefits and essentially provide a forum for keeping in touch with one another. Therefore, we invite you to reach out to us and to one another, view and post information about yourself and others, access newsletters and newsletters archives, view upcoming events and much more. We hope you continue to keep the Institute an active part of your professional life.

Welcome. We look forward to seeing much more of you.

Rodrigo Orrantia
MA Photography: 2009 – 2010
Curatorial Assistant– Mummery + Schnelle, London

Rodrigo Orrantia recently graduated from the MA Photography: Contemporary and Historical programme at the Institute in London.  He holds a previous masters degree in History of Art and Architecture from the National University of Colombia where he focused his research on historical photography.  From the onset of the programme, Rodrigo has been interested in collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects, working closely with artists and experts to ensure the highest standard in each instance of the planning and production of exhibitions. Whilst researching and writing for his dissertation, he was involved with an internship programme at the London –based organisation, Arts & Business, and is now working as Curatorial Assistant at the Mummery + Schnelle gallery in central London.


What does your job entail as Curatorial Assistant?

I liaise with clients interested in buying the gallery’s artworks and coordinate logistics, mainly the framing, crating, shipping and insurance of the artworks to be shown at the gallery and fairs around the world.  My job is to take as many problems as possible off the Gallery Director’s shoulders while he is seeing to the big sales. I have always loved photography and it’s hugely rewarding to work with artists who are using photography as a medium.

I go to the artist’s studios and have long discussions with them about what they want to print and the type of mounting they prefer. One of the best things about my job is working with clients, contractors, researchers, and artists etc. Everyone who comes into the gallery needs something from me and I can help them.  I have enjoyed learning to understand everybody’s needs from contractors to high-end clients.  I have built up excellent relations with framers. The shippers are my best day-to-day friends. They come here and measure the works and to get them into the crates. It’s that interaction that I really enjoy and which has become the basis for my professional practice.

What do you like most about your job?

I love to do all of the more practical things. I love bringing people together and making things happen. It’s more exciting to be proactive and in this kind of work, you can bring a bit of a personal touch. I remind myself as much as I can to enjoy myself because I chose a career path I love. I love the practical aspects of my job. For example I take pictures to prove the condition of the works before they leave the gallery and I will go and help install works at the client’s home, where they will tell me the frame is a bit too wide or too blue for example. 

I really appreciated the practical approach of the MA in Photography.  It was amazing how we got to learn about how curatorial work is done, through group project work, but now I am doing the work for real and to some extent that has taken a leap of faith.  At times, I have just had to don a straight face and say “I can do it”. I have to learn to be resourceful and to learn on the job, through experience rather than by asking for help.

In what ways does the degree course you took at Sotheby’s Institute of Art help you in your current role?

It was the hands-on nature of the course which helped me develop my existing set of professional skills.  Although I already had an MA in Art History, I loved photography and was really interested in what Sotheby’s Institute had to offer. Whilst most history of photography degrees rely heavily on books, the Institute offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity: the privilege of going and looking at works first-hand.  I believe you make your own luck. For me, it was an instinctive thing.  I closed my eyes and went for it!  

I was a bit shy at the start of the programme.  I was also trying to find my bearings in this competitive city of London that doesn’t stop for anyone.  But I made it my personal aim to know who is who in the London art scene - the curators, the dealers – and to introduce myself to them and make contact.  I made the choice to use every available resource and to invest my time, money and effort to make my year of studies work.  I soon realised that London is a crossroads for people who come from all over the world, bringing and trading ideas. I’m still young and I have loads to learn and no doubt a handful of mistakes yet to make, but for the time being, I wouldn’t change London for the world.

The art world is a really small, highly specialised world to break into, but it’s worth all the effort and the time and perseverance that networking takes. When we started the course, we went round a lot of galleries with our Programme Director.  Some of those dealers still remember me from those visits, and the five minutes that I would spend chatting with them after their tour or talk. I have even become really good friends with some of the experts who came to the Institute to give lectures. I did this by establishing a connection and then afterwards sending a link or a piece of information that I thought they might find interesting.  I also decided to base my dissertation on interviews with photography artists in order to make more contacts.  I wrote to galleries and asked them to put me in touch with some of my favourite photographers. I would write and explain that I was working on my MA dissertation at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and I´m happy to say I often got positive responses. Sometimes you’ve got to break that barrier between important people and yourself.  It’s not enough to be really good at what you do and not take any notice of your surroundings, or you will be really isolated. Through the MA at Sotheby's Institute of Art I made lots of contacts with people working in the art world which might be invaluable to me in the future.