Paying artists campaign seeks good practice role models

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How do artists fare when they show work in publicly-funded galleries in the UK? New research commissioned by a-n and AIR looking specifically at artists’ experiences reveals the gulf between the expectations of artists and galleries.

Many venues believe that artists don't expect fees, while the issue of artists' pay and costs are not seen as a priority by organisations.

Commissioned by a-n The Artists Information Company and AIR Artists Interaction and Representation from dha communications, the Paying Artists Research aims to identify good and poor practice, and to consider what kind of recommendations might be made for sharing and spreading good practice more widely.

Phase 1 of the research is based on an online survey of over 1,000 artists’ experiences of exhibition practice. The full report follows the publication earlier this year of an Infographic with headline outcomes.

Phase 2 is an overview of the main findings from in-depth interviews with artists and publicly-funded venues, and deepens understanding of the Phase 1 data. This document explores perceptions and issues from both sides of the experience.

Fees and expectations

On the whole, venues report artists not expecting fees, with early career artists not generally asking for fees. One interviewee said: “From my experience, artists usually don't ask for a fee. They don't have expectations.”

Not all artists report positive experiences in relation to expenses and the wider costs to themselves of exhibiting. For galleries, fees for exhibiting are not seen as a priority, with artists’ costs appearing low on the list of budget priorities for exhibitions.

Most curators felt it would be prohibitively expensive to pay exhibition fees to artists in a group show, although one did respond: “I try to give each artist something, even if it's only 50 quid.”

The next phase – how you can be involved

Data gathered in the report provides the platform for the next phase of the campaign – the launch of an advocacy programme, developed through consultation with artists.

Members of the AIR Council have already presented the findings to artists through a series of consultation meetings at Castlefield Gallery in Manchester, Motorcade/Flashparade in Bristol and Bow Arts in East London. AIR Council members have also delivered workshops on the findings at the Art Party Conference, AD:UK conference, Engage conference, plus internationally at the IAA conference in Oslo.

Over the coming months, we will be producing a range of material about artists and what makes a good relationship with publicly-funded galleries, including video interviews focusing on specific strategies and approaches. As we know that many galleries can already demonstrate good practice in showing and paying artists, we’d like to hear from you if you’d like to be interviewed for the next important phase of the research.

If you would like to be involved please contact AIR Communications Officer Jack Hutchinson: jackhutchinsonair@googlemail.com

You can read and download pdfs of the full Paying Artists Research here.

Join the conversation on Twitter using the tag #PayArtists