The rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has brought a mixed bag of optimism and apprehensions for Indian artists. GST will replace more than a dozen central and state taxes such as excise duty, service tax, VAT into a 'one nation, one tax' regime.
While it was a rejoice time for many sectors, the already struggling Indian art industry fears that the new tax regime will hit the market, making it difficult for budding artists to find buyers.
In the single taxation system, artworks -- including, paintings, drawings and pastels, original engravings, prints and lithographs, original sculptures and statuary in any material and antiquities of an age exceeding 100 years -- fall under the 12% bracket, thereby making them more expensive.
Sonia Malik, an artist for the past 7 years, feels GST will have a negative impact on the industry. â€œAfter currency ban, the art industry is already facing a crisis. Indian artists pursue their art under many economic hardships. With the new tax regime, prices will increase and it will add to our woes. Art is a unique human expression that canâ€™t be mass produced in factory,â€ she says.
However, there are others who believe GST will have limited impact in the artistic world.
â€œThere are fewer people who buy artworks. If GST adds more rupees, it would not affect much and the art lovers will not shy away from buying artifacts. Art is worship, not a daily requirement,â€ said an artist, who did not wish to be identified.
Creative professionals feel the art world need government intervention for a better exposure. According to industry report, only 2-6% of works are sold during an exhibition.
Art historian Manmeet Gill feels the main victims are the struggling artists who are dependent on art for living, and not those who have already branded themselves.
â€œArt market with GST tax will definitely bring more downfall to the Indian scenario. The art market after 2008-09 was getting little better but was impacted post-demonetisation. GST implementation will affect freelance artists. Art selling in India is very difficult and artists have difficulties selling their work earlier at nominal or deserving rates. Government hasn't done much when it comes to art. So implementing a tax will make situation more difficult for artist.â€
Left with no options, many artists get absorbed in schools as teachers for a living.
â€œWe respect art, but for a living, we cannot solely depend on canvas, paper and colours in India. Left with no choice, we need to compromise, and sell our â€˜artistic talentsâ€™ to decorate school spaces,â€ said a primary art school teacher from Kolkata.
According to industry report, Indiaâ€™s overall art market turnover doesnâ€™t even cross the Rs 500 crore mark. Many artists ask that if performers, actors arenâ€™t under the GST regime, then why art has been put under it.
â€œArt industry is already under reeling under crisis. If these taxes can be used for the development of the sector, then it will be a good decision,â€ says artist Aishwarya Shetty.