“Art And Artists In India Are Waiting For A Reform”- Prasanta Kalita

Prasanta Kalita is a renowned Indian artist. His works were on display at Desi Canvas at The Drifting Canvas. On a telephonic conversation he talked about the complex nature of economics of art in India:

“First of all, I would like to make clear that work of art is not an industry, it is a creative space. It can not act like the other industry. Creating art cannot be commoditized. We don’t work for purpose of selling or buying. it is for our own satisfaction and reach out to people. Livelihood generation is not the primary motive. It does not mean that we don’t want to sell our work. The intention is to focus on creating what we feel like should be brought into public. We should never have that intention to earn money for creating these works. From history, people have created art for themselves, and for the people. The culture of galleries in India has turned the work of art into commercial things. It has never happened in the west.

Appreciation of work of art is lacking in India. The art is limited to certain classes. Our schooling has molded us into thinking of the monetary value of everything we do. When I was in class 9th, I told my parents that I want to become an artist, the first question they asked was that if I would be able to earn a livelihood from it.

Becoming an artist is a gradual process. The question is very relevant. I have faced many difficulties due to my decision of becoming an artist. We can survive without focusing much of commodification of everything, but then I want to ask it to everyone is a society possible in any point of history which does not have art and culture as its integral parts? Some of my teachers spent their lives roaming around creating work of art. I do not think they ever thought of making money from their works. We admire these artists.

If there is no value attached to our work how will we survive? everything has become expensive today. But again, that does not mean we start putting our values to making money. In India, we do not get support from government or private organizations, unlike the western countries.

A few years back, buying work directly from the artist was stopped. Rajiv Lochan, former director of National Gallery of Modern Art, was the one behind this decision. It was more like helping some of the art-lobbies. Even today, they do not have any collection of Indian contemporary art. What options are we left with? Going to private galleries? Their strategies are very different.

In each country, appreciating art is considered important. In India, there is so much politics involved in everything that art promotion has become a thing of past. How will the artists and actors survive? For last 12–15 years, NGMA is not able to sell much. It is a pity.

Some people like Aakshat and you have taken an initiative to help us reach out to masses.I keep receiving messages from different groups and individuals that they will help us sell if I pay some money. It is like a circle, a manipulation. Personal interests are taking over the real appreciation.

So I would say that the economics of art in India needs redefining and major reforms.”