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Money, mission & market
- Discussion on putting art together at Studio 21

How is it that artists neither go hungry any longer nor live in garrets, yet find it difficult to get funding for projects that are perhaps not saleable commodities? Why is it that art writing in India does not have a critical edge that actually stimulates creativity?

Such burning issues pertaining to Indian contemporary art, particularly as practised in Calcutta, were discussed at an interaction with Griselda Bear, curator and director involved in fundraising on behalf of several international art projects, and Jeremy Bear, artist and film and television designer. The discussion in which several young artists, filmmakers, and the head of an arts funding organisation participated, was held at Studio 21, a new aspect of CIMA Gallery, on Tuesday evening.

The discussion began with a performance by Swarna Chitrakar, folk scroll painter and singer, which led to Bangladeshi artist Naeem Mohaimen’s comments on sponsorship.

He said state sponsorship in Dhaka is problematic, and on the other hand corporate sponsorship creates superstars, and only the more commercially viable projects get funding.

Abhijit Gupta suggested the formation of an umbrella body to support projects that could not be sold. Griselda Bear recommended “pluralistic funding” as a solution as well as national lottery, which, when it began in the 1990s in the UK, was resisted as it was equated with gambling.

Nandita Palchoudhuri, who heads an arts funding body, rightly pointed out that few were interested in funding the process of creating art.

Rakhi Sarkar, the director of CIMA, regretted the lack of critical judgment when it comes to assessing a work of art in India. This is important to ensure that a work is actually worth funding.

Griselda Bear was all admiration for the “incredible creative outpouring in a Communist society”, a comment that was greeted with protests and laughter. So, as Stephen Sondheim wrote: Advancing art is easy... Financing it is not.

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