Galleries go vacant, artists’ pockets empty amidst Covid

Arts & Culture Bangalore Business COVID-19

Sales at galleries still open have dipped by 70%.

Bengaluru:The coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis for painters and art galleries across Bengaluru.

According to a recent survey conducted by the International Council of Museums, about 95% of museums worldwide closed due to the pandemic. With art galleries shut, art fairs cancelled or postponed, young artists are distressed because they have not earned any income for months now. Art galleries across Bengaluru used to see significant footfalls due to various exhibitions, but the scene has changed since 2020.

Parimala T., manager of the Crimson Art Gallery, informedThe Observer: “The condition of our art gallery is very dull. We could hardly sell any paintings. Now with the second wave of the pandemic, the situation has worsened.”

With more than 35 art galleries already closed due to Covid, sales at the art galleries that are still open have declined by 70%. Desperate for income, painters are leaving the art field, searching for jobs that will provide them some remuneration.

G.D. Chandrababu, the owner of the Bangalore Art Hub, said: “I have arranged Bengaluru Art for Public for young artists to drop their paintings free of cost. If they get any customer, we will get in touch with them without asking for any commission.”

People who run art galleries are wondering whether the galleries will stay in business. Prof. K.S. Appajaiah, secretary of the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, said they are not making enough money to maintain the 14 galleries under the Parishath. “Owing to the stoppage of physical operations, we are finding it difficult to pay our staff as well.”

Initially, several art events happened virtually, but there was a decline in participation. People are not using the the opportunity to appreciate the aesthetics of art virtually.

Darshan Kumar Y.U., deputy curator, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), shared: “The Lalithakala Academy started a funding (programme) to promote artists, whereas the National Gallery of Modern Art couldn’t support painters financially.” However, NGMA organized virtual talks and panel discussions to encourage artists.

Not only art galleries but students of art are also facing difficulties. They say art is supposed to be a one-on-one procedure, and communicating through video chats is complicated.

Anup K, a member of the art faculty at the Sampratishta School of Fine Arts and Design, said: “Every year, we conduct a painting exhibition for our outgoing students for appreciation purposes, but we have not been able to organize one since the pandemic broke out. We are unable to see the painting textures and brush strokes during online classes.”

Though the learning process is caught in limbo for most students, others are looking forward to it. Azien Zaidi, an art student, said: “The online mode of learning is not really helpful for young learners like me, but the lockdown has helped me to practise more and explore the different facets of painting.”

Many painters and exhibitors are working remotely to ramp up online sales until restrictions on movement and gatherings are removed. They are considering using software and virtual background to come to their rescue to impress buyers.

Accalimed painter Gurudas Shenoy said: “I utilized the pandemic to evolve my art, but young artists are still bearing the brunt of the pandemic. I would advise them to keep on painting with whatever raw material they can afford. I believe good times will be back for artists.”

Many art galleries in Bengaluru have donated money for the welfare of small and medium painters during the pandemic.


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