LT Article April 2015 |The Vicious Visual Arts by Saskia Fernando

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It can perhaps be most accredited to the late Mr Geoffrey Bawa that the architecture industry was an integral part of the growth and development of the arts in the 80s. With very few galleries in existence at the time, artists such as Ena de Silva, Laki Senanayake and Barbara Sansoni’s works were often featured within the structures designed and built by Bawa. These collaborations replaced the gallery by providing an opportunity and space for artists to permanently display their work. The opportunity for sale thereafter increased substantially with an exposure to the tourism industry particularly in the numerous Bawa hotels. This support trickled down to many of Bawa’s loyal followers; architects, designers and even hoteliers now support the arts within commercial spaces. Thirty years later the structure of the art industry has changed considerably. We are now improving in professionalism while also looking at a considerable increase in artists, galleries, institutions and events locally supporting the growth of the industry. Complimentary creative industries are to some respect supporting this change, more in the form of a handful of individual architects who understand the benefits of working with the representatives of the art scene however it is becoming increasingly evident that the majority of architects are not working with the new framework that has developed. The architectural industry is no doubt thriving locally. Following the reign of The effect this has on the entire industry is that it reduces the support of the gallery and dealer framework; an essential part of the professionalization and presentation of the Sri Lankan contemporary art scene locally and internationally. One might question why the artists themselves do not choose to work through the gallery. With the exception of a few, the need for cash still overrides the understanding of the need for gallery representation in the overall sustainability of the art scene. It is a sad truth that is certainly in need of change, but with a greater understanding it is hopefully easier understood by the supporting industries first. The same could certainly be said for the design, fashion and craft industries. Collaboration is perhaps the most logical answer to the problem that exists at present. Craft is often frowned upon by the art scene and unacknowledged as a source of inspiration to artists. Fashion has a huge potential to support the arts and vice versa. Finally the design industry, though smaller, stands to gain from all four. It has been mentioned in passing to me that for such a rich culture, our industries do not all carry the strength or depth that is present in our history. While aspiring to trends and the growth of individual industries it is perhaps most opportune for all the creative industries to come together to work in the overall development of Sri Lanka’s contemporary presentation and understanding of local culture. It is the only solution the conflict that exists and is currently hindering our art and design product in its entirety.

Original post can be seen here

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