Painting sector remains sluggish despite growth potential

According to their estimates, the annual turnover of the painting market has hovered at around Tk 1.0 billion in the last couple of years.

| Updated: October 25, 2017 05:05:25

A painting exhibition at Zainul Gallery of Fine Arts Institute of Dhaka University. — FE File Photo A painting exhibition at Zainul Gallery of Fine Arts Institute of Dhaka University. — FE File Photo

The country's painting sector, despite having immense potential, is not flourishing at an expected level mainly due to inadequate curating facilities and limited art collectors, insiders have said.


According to their estimates, the annual turnover of the painting market has hovered at around Tk 1.0 billion in the last couple of years.


Sources said only a few famous artists were leading the market while a significant number of young artists struggle to survive.


Shaik Faizur, an MFA student at the Fine Arts Institute of Dhaka University (DU), said that the painting market is hugely diversified where noted artists need not worry, while only a few emerging artists can make their way.


"Drawings by famous artists may be sold at Tk 1.0 million or even more, but younger artists cannot earn at an expected level," he said.


An artist's primary objective is not earning money from selling paintings. However, a strong market is essential for survival of artists and such aesthetic practices, said artist Md Muniruzzaman, director of Fine Arts Department at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts).


"The market is not growing at the desired level mainly due to people's reluctance to invest in such objects despite positive change in people's living standard," he said.


The artist also said art collection for some affluent people can be a good investment opportunity as a bonus to their interest for aestheticism.


"For example, (someone) starts collecting paintings of eight emerging artists now at an affordable rate. After a decade or later, when a few of those artists will become more famous, their paintings will be 100 times pricier as well," he explained.


It is now more understood from the price of works by Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, SM Sultan and other leading artists, said Mr Munir, who is also proprietor of Gallery Chitrak.


Bangladeshi artists are globally famous for their contribution to fine arts. However, many of their works are rarely highlighted due to the absence of well-known dealers like Sotheby's and Christie's (two globally acclaimed art dealing companies), he noted.


Underscoring the need for children's attachment to such artworks for better mind development, he said the government should take initiatives for establishing more facilities supporting artists and art galleries.


It is difficult for private art galleries to survive with their own earnings as the market in the country is yet to be matured, he said.


Sources said that around 20 art galleries in the country are providing the artists with facilities to exhibit and sell their compositions to art collectors. These galleries organise exhibitions and serve as matchmakers between artists and art collectors.


Artist Goutam Chakraborty, proprietor of the 'Galleri Kaya', in the city's Uttara, said painting's market was completely different from other sectors.


"There is no steady market for painting in the country that has been extremely sluggish in last three years," he said.


He also said it was difficult for an artist or art collector to be professionally engaged with this practice mainly due to the absence of overall supportive atmosphere.


"The practice of art collection is rare in our country despite the fact that the country has a remarkable tradition in the field and a good number of contemporary Bangladeshi artists are globally recognised," he said.


Comparing Bangladeshi painting market with the global one, he said at a recent auction arranged by Christies' in the USA, several paintings drawn by famous Indian artists like MF Hussain, Tyeb Mehta and F N Souza were sold at $2.0 to $3.0 million.


Giving suggestions for better future of painting market, the artist said nurturing the artistic sense and love for beauty among people since primary level of education is essential.


Replying to a query, he said the art galleries, mostly Dhaka-centric, were struggling to survive due to higher operational cost, a lack of patronisation and inadequate number of art collectors.


"An in-depth study is essential to know the number of paintings being handed over in the country and their monetary value," he said.


Contacted, Lecturer at Institute of Fine Arts (DU) Md. Kamal Uddin said that the market for painting is expected to make a significant growth in recent years.


At an exhibition in 2013, a painting composed by famous Bangladeshi artist Shahabuddin Ahmed was sold at Tk 1.2 million. There had been some other similar events at that time, he said.


"Unfortunately, the market is witnessing very little growth despite improvement in people's living standard against the backdrop of the country's economic growth," he said.


"You will not understand the overall scenario after you visit an exhibition by noted artists like Shahabuddin Ahmed, Rafiqun Nabi or Jamal Ahmed," the artist said adding the painting market had become individual-centric where young artists needed to wait for long with passion.


Another reason for dullness is change in social perspective, he noted.


"Nowadays, the habit of reading for pleasure, listening to music, paying attention to art culture is on the wane," he said.


Now-a-days, many families buy paintings for decorating their houses or offices to show their status though they don't attempt to understand the significance of the paintings, he added.


While calling for initiative to promote painting, he suggested corporate organisations should support the sector sponsoring painting exhibitions and buying more paintings to decorate their workplaces.


According to the academic, foreign art collectors have been "very crucial" for the country's painting market. The recent militant attacks on some of them have created a sense of fear among them for their free movement. "They cannot openly attend exhibitions and galleries," he said.


Sources said, besides unique artwork, archetypal paintings are sold in some art-shops in the city's New Market and Gulshan area.


Those shops usually sell typical paintings of rural life, sunrise and city life, whose price starts from Tk 200.


Apel Mahmud, a salesperson at Chandrima Super Market, said, "A painting on larger canvass may be sold at up to Tk 25,000 depending on the artist and subject," he said.


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