India is no country for free art anymore, thanks to Good and Services Tax

World Sunday 21/May/2017 21:40 PM
By: Times News Service
India is no country for free art anymore, thanks to Good and Services Tax

New Delhi:The Goods and Services Tax (GST), which aims to create a uniform taxation structure across India, is painting a sad picture for the art market in the country.
After implementation, it will bring artworks in the slab of 12 per cent tax slab, making them rather more expensive. So far, barring a few states, art was exempted from tax. This has naturally upset the art community, which fears that the already struggling art industry will suffer more, and that budding artists will now find even fewer buyers.
Erum Khan, an art curator for the past 13 years, says, "Art is not a requirement, but a choice. If a show is held, only 2-5 per cent of the works are sold. There are no schemes, no government-driven initiatives, and no incentives for artists. On top of that, GST will lead to higher prices. Artists are already struggling to find a market; what they need is motivation and not a push back."
Ina Puri, a curator with 30 years' experience, believes that due to demonetisation, the whole industry is already facing a crisis and taxes will affect it severely. Puri says, "Sixty auction houses have already stopped working across India after demonetisation. At the international level, this is a great time, as artists have started getting recognition abroad.But (in India), GST will make it more difficult for us. Look at China. It gave a tax holiday of 10 years to artists." On the contrary, Sushma Bhel, who has been a curator for 16 years in Delhi, supports the decision.
She says, "The GST bill will simplify the unstable art market. The documentation of the art Industry is not proper and (this) step will bring a system. Also, we can push the government to use the (tax) money to develop the sector. I'm happy that it will mean a proper forum and standards."
The artist fraternity thinks that it will negatively impact budding artists. Natasha Chadha Bhambri, an independent artist who gave a makeover to the District Prison of Gurgaon, says, "It will affect the whole community negatively. Buyers bargain with us as if they're buying a grocery item, and GST will only add to our woes. It might not be an issue for the established artists, who are brand names themselves, but for the budding artists, it will be difficult to even survive solely as artists."
However, the eminent painter Gopi Gajwani believes that taxation is not going to make much of a difference. "I feel that there are already very few people who buy artworks," he says.
"Even if GST adds Rs 10,000 to the (price of an) artwork, an art lover would not shy away from buying it. The market for art is very niche. Besides, we, too, have passed through the phase of a budding artist and survived despite several challenges."