The challenges for the art world just don’t seem to stop. First came demonetisation, and now with the Goods and Services Tax being rolled out, the already struggling art market has received another blow. Now, if a consignment leaves the artist’s studio, either the artist or the art gallery has to pay GST. And if the paintings don’t sell, the artists have to bear the losses. Many artists and art gallery owners are also questioning that if performers and actors aren’t under the GST regime, then why has art been put under it?
“There is no market for artists. The GST has hit all artists, budding and established alike. Nobody is willing to take a consignment. If I offer to send it anyway, I have to pay GST. If things continue this way, galleries might have to shut down, and artists might have to pack their bags. It’ll become very difficult to survive. There is no clarity yet, and we want to discuss it with an expert to know better, after which, we may protest and ask for an amendment,” says artist Laxman Aelay, adding, “In China, there’s no GST for artists and the market there is growing. Their government is promoting art and supporting artists. Art is creative, it’s not a commodity. So, why should we pay for it?”
Artist Surya Prakash, who has a show coming up in Bengaluru later this month, asks “Why should I lose my money? If the work is returned, who is responsible for my loss?”
He continues, “Everybody in my profession is concerned about it. We don’t know the kind of tax that artists will now have to pay; nothing is clear yet. When I sell something and make `X out of it, I would earlier pay income-tax on the amount. Now, I have to pay the agency that will sell the painting, and also pay the income-tax over it. We artists are a minority. My immediate problem now is that I have to send my works for my upcoming show — the deadline is fast approaching and it is not even for a commercial show. I don’t know if I will have to pay for it. I am still figuring out the logistics.”
Prshant Lahoti, owner of Kalakriti Art Gallery, says that from the gallery’s point of view, it would become better because instead of a 14.5 per cent VAT, they only have to pay 12 per cent GST. “But the issue here is that art is not being considered as an individual’s talent. It is not a manufacturing unit where you put in raw materials and get the final product. It is an artist’s intellectual property. When performing artistes don’t come under GST, then why these artists? Most artists find it difficult to sell their art, so it is going to be a bigger problem for the small artists and artisans. Art is not a commodity. Keeping all this in mind, finance minister, Arun Jaitley, should come out with an amendment where artists are not affected. They should understand that the total turnover of art is minimal; the revenues are not that high.”