It has been revealed that artists are having to turn down exhibition offers because it means working ‘for free’, leading artists’ organisation warns More than 70% of artists are not paid for contributing their work to publicly-funded exhibitions and almost as many are having to turn down offers from galleries because they can’t afford to work for nothing, research reveals today.
Britain’s publicly-funded galleries are in danger of cutting the pipeline of talent and destroying an international reputation for innovation and diversity which has taken decades to build, an organisation representing 18,000 UK artists has warned.
The warning from artists’ membership organisation, a-n, comes after a survey of more than 1,000 of its members– who range from emerging talent to Turner Prize shortlisted artists – revealed:
71% of artists taking part in publicly-funded exhibitions over the last three years got no fee at all
59% of artists did not get their expenses paid
63% of artists have had to turn down gallery requests to exhibit their work because they cannot afford to work for nothing.
Susan Jones, director of a-n The Artists Information Company, said: “The research shows that the practice of not paying artists is deeply entrenched in gallery culture and presents a worrying trend in publicly-funded exhibitions.
“Artists have suffered a massive drop in real income over the last few years and now earn an average of just £10,000. As the survey shows, many can simply no longer afford to contribute time and money to exhibitions without receiving some kind of fee.
“Unless we start valuing the artist as well as the art, in future galleries will only be showing work by the privileged few who can afford to work for nothing.”
Arrangements for artists showing in galleries in recent years have largely relied on non-financial benefits such as support from gallery staff and exposure to new audiences provided by the exhibition itself.
The Paying Artists campaign launched by a-n today says that although the contemporary visual arts are a great British success story with more visitors than ever before enjoying the work , many artists are considering the sustainability of their life as artists – with 57% now generating less than a quarter of their income from their artistic practice.
Emily Pethick, Director of The Showroom, a publicly-funded London gallery which pays average fees of £2k each to four commissioned shows from artists a year, said: ““It’s really important to make this issue of the artists’ economy visible. There is a lot of cultural production in this country but the people who are paid least within it are the artists. It really does need a big rethink.”
Liz Whitehead, gallery co-director of Brighton-based Fabrica said: “I know that some galleries don’t pay artists, and I can’t see how that can be justified because we expect to pay for everything else. A gallery like Fabrica commissions artists to make large pieces of work. They need to be paid for their time. Not paying artists is not an option because it wouldn’t deliver quality projects, and it would be immoral because it wouldn’t pay the person who makes the creative content. “
Susan Jones said: “The Paying Artists campaign is about tackling the inequalities faced by artists and giving galleries and the visiting public access to quality art which genuinely covers the spectrum of human experience.”