Curators and organisers speak about the impact of money crunch, its aftereffects and the current status of the art market.
The art season is upon us, and despite the recent shock of demonetisation, a lot of exhibitions, art fairs and festivals are being continuously organised across the country. We speak to artists, curators and organisers to understand the ground reailty, the affects of demonestisation on their businesses and more.
Curator Ina Puri says: “At least on the surface, the festivals are being arranged with the same pomp and show as they used to happen before. But if you look at recent art auctions, not many artworks were picked up on a high bid. However, I feel that demonetisation is gradually going to clean up the market and the transactions will be more ethical from now on.”
Artist and curator Alka Raguvanshi talking about cash transactions, reveals, “Before the deadline for depositing old notes on December 31, a small amount of sales did happen. Artists who had their ways to handle black money, sold their works and received the payments in form of old notes. In fact, these high-end artworks were being used as currency collatrals as well. But now there is a change in the scenario, as there is a limit on cash withdrawls. High-end art can’t be bought in cash payments now.”
Despite low cash-flow, organisers have not backed down from the annual art festivals. Rajendra who had recently organised the India Art Festival shares, “Art festivals are still being organised because one has to keep the brand name alive. Financially, it was tough to organise India Art Festival in Delhi this year. The Mumbai edition went very well as it was organised in October, before demonetisation happened. But the Delhi edition happened in January. Like always, the artists and galleries have been making payments online in order to participate, so that aspect did not change. However, the problem arose when these artists and galleries faced money recovery issues as in sales. In art festivals, especially, all the transactions happen in cash. So, therein, of course, organisers faced a bad time. We are still incurring huge loses.” He goes on to say that smaller and selective sales are happening but bigger sales are on hold: “Corporate houses have all the money but who wants to invest in art in such troubled times?”
Talking about how artists have taken a hit, Alka shares, “To be honest, artists were still recovering from the recession period when demonetisation came and hit them. Upcoming artists and those who are new to the industry are suffering the most. I know a handful of artists who have sold their houses too.” Suggesting some solutions, she adds, “At least the government can look at scrapping the tax imposed on art. Maybe corporate houses should get tax exemptions for patronising art. It will really go a long way in supporting artists and the world of art can become self-sufficient.”