Paying artists campaign gathers momentum

Launched on 19 May, the Paying Artists campaign seeks to raise awareness of the value of artists within publicly-funded exhibitions and gallery programmes.

Informed both by independent research into artists' perceptions of the value of the exhibition process within their practice along with data on their income from arts practice, and in-depth interviews with artists at a range of career stages and with curators and gallery directors about their approaches and practices, the campaign aims to secure the future of the visual arts in the UK through creating equality of opportunity for artists, based on their talent and potential for innovation rather than on their ability to self-finance their exhibitions when held in publicly-funded galleries.

The research and campaign, which is a combined effort beween a-n - The Artists Information Company and AIR - Artists Interaction and Representation, has attracted a groundswell of support from across the UK and internationally, highlighting artists' pay and working conditions as a "global issue".

It is strongly supported by senior artists including Conrad Atkinson, who said: “Most artists agree that it is important to show their work in a public gallery or museum, where it can sometimes be assumed that the chance of an exhibition is payment enough. However you wouldn’t make the same argument in any other field of work whether it’s the House of Lords or the curator or director of an art gallery. The economic argument for the creative industries has been well-rehearsed over the past few decades. The health of the visual arts and artists is central to this and arguably feeds these industries. This is why the Paying Artists campaign deserves our full support.”

A report on US-based site Hyperallergic by Jillian Steinhauer said: "Last month, Christie’s New York raked in $745 million for a single sale, the company’s highest-grossing auction ever; meanwhile, a campaign in the UK called Paying Artists released a report with a series of recommendations for getting artists paid, an urgency they claim based on findings that '71% of artists exhibiting in publicly-funded galleries received no fee for their work'. Welcome to the art world — where there’s more money than anyone knows what to do with, but it remains mostly in the hands of people who don’t make the art."

Tamara Winikoff, Executive Director of The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) said: "We are also pursuing the goal of fair and equitable payment for artists. For over ten years we have been advocating for artists to be paid at least at the minimum fee rates recommended in the Code of Practice for Professional Australian Visual and Media Arts, Craft and Design Practitioners. We also seek commitment from national and state funding bodies to write this requirement into their funding and grant guidelines.. Australian artists join with you in your campaign. We know that it is just and achievable."

Others supporting the campaign include Arts Developmenrt UK, Axisweb, Artquest, CARFAC (Canada), DACS, Engage, Jerwood Charitable Trust, NSEAD, KIF/KRO (Sweden), Redeye Photography Network, SCAN, Scottish Artists Union and Visarte (Switzerland).

All those who work professionally in the visual arts are warmly invited to pledge support for the campaign via the website, which also contains case studies of good practice including from The Showroom Gallery, London, Fabrica Brighton and g39 Cardiff. All publicly-funded galleries are warmly invited to submit a case study that demonstrates their good practice for inclusion and to bring their knowledge and insight into the consultations and discussions to be held at a range of arts, cultural and political events, conferences and ‘virtual’ meetings over the coming months.

Sue Jones, Director of the Whitstable Biennale, said: "We have built a track record of commissioning artists who, having been seen in the festival, will be picked up by other venues and curators, going on to more success. Our ethos is to work exclusively with emerging and mid-career artists based in the UK who are at a really crucial point in their career. It’s important to us that we pay artists, and we absolutely appreciate their value.”