Latvian sculptors cover up statues to protest tax hike

Riga (AFP) –


Latvian sculptors on Thursday began covering up their monuments with dark plastic to hide them from public view in protest against a proposed tax hike on artist earnings.

The artists plan to shroud up to two dozen monuments in the Baltic state's capital Riga, including some that have been on display for decades.

"We are protesting against increasing taxes on creative work at a time when the coronavirus has already halted almost all cultural events... reducing income," the Latvian Union of Artists said in a statement.

Finance Minister Janis Reirs told AFP that the government has held "tough conversations" with artists', writers' and filmmakers' unions regarding the planned tax change.

"I understand that sculptors are among the most affected, since they have huge material costs for every work they create," he said, without proposing to alter the tax plan.

Latvian creatives had previously protested the plan by piling bricks in front of parliament after talks with the finance and culture ministers that sculptor Aigars Bikse said "was like talking to a brick wall."

Statistics show that some 39,000 people in Latvia could be affected by the proposed changes.

A eurozone member of 1.9 million people, Latvia's economy is expected to shrink by six percent this year, according to the latest IMF estimate.