Culture: an industry with an unquantifiable profit

Newsroom 05/03/2013 | 14:52

The film industry and classical music festivals – these are the cultural products that have put Romania on the international map in recent years, despite the gloomy economic climate.

By Anca Ionita

In 2006, Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, made with an overall budget of EUR 350,000, was awarded the Un Certain Regard prize in Cannes. The year marked the beginning of the Romanian New Wave – a series of international successes for a group of young local filmmakers. Over time, this group of gifted directors has expanded: Cristi Puiu, Tudor Caranfil, Cristian Mungiu, Corneliu Porumboiu and Cristian Nemescu were joined by Tudor Giurgiu, Radu Jude, Andrei Ujica, Bobby Paunescu and Calin Netzer, the recent recipient of the Golden Bear prize in Berlin for his latest production, Child’s Pose. In 2010, the average budget of an independent feature film was around EUR 650,000, according to data released by the National Center of Cinematography. Romanian film directors are determined to make their movies despite the economic environment. The constraints of a low budget perhaps limit their artistic independence, which is directly linked to the international critics’ and public’s acclaim.

The cost of the 2005 George Enescu International Festival was around EUR 5.5 million, with most of the sum coming from the state budget. This year’s event will receive EUR 9 million, which as well as state funding also includes private sponsorship from multinationals and local private companies that have decided to associate their names with a high-standard international festival. In the two decades since it was revived, the biennial event has become one of the most important classical music festivals in the international calendar, giving a boost to the local cultural industry.

Moving from the aural to the visual, the local art market has witnessed a boom over the past five years. In 2012 the market grew by 20 percent, with sales totaling EUR 14.6 million, according to figures released by Artmark auction house at the beginning of this year. The entire art market last year was estimated at more than EUR 25 million, not including the sub-market of private sales, not recorded on paper or with guarantee certificates, reported the same source. Romanians have been investing in local art over the past five years as an alternative to more volatile assets, as it retains its value. “Artists with an important place in the national heritage have remained a safe investment, with works by great names in Romanian art being ‘hunted’ both by dedicated collectors and market newcomers,” said Artmark officials.

With these areas getting the lion’s share of attention of both government and private companies, the Romanian cultural industry is still badly under-financed, with areas such as theater, dance and the visual arts heavily dependent on funding from the Ministry of Culture or Romanian Cultural Institute. Since state austerity measures will probably continue for the next two years or so, the industry’s only hope is private investment. Let’s hope the business world is forthcoming with the necessary cash, and that the new generation of artists and performers can take up the mantle from the creative Romanians who have blazed the trail. 

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