The preview of Jacob Dahlgren's exhibition 'On Balance' at the Fabrica Gallery in Brighton, which pays artists  £2000 - £6000 plus expenses. Photo: Eva Kalpadaki

Should artists be paid for taking part in publicly funded exhibitions?

Rebecca Atkinson, 07.07.2014
Vote in the poll and have your say
In the past few months anger has been growing among the artistic community about the number of publicly funded galleries that commission artists to work for free.

The Paying Artists campaign says that more than 70% of contemporary visual artists who have taken part in a publicly funded exhibition in the past three years have not received a fee. And 63% of artists have had to turn down requests from galleries to exhibit their work because they cannot afford to do so without pay.

The campaign, which has been supported by artists and Arts Council England, wants to create national policy and guidance on paying artists and to include pay policy in museums’ and galleries’ funding agreements.

What impact would such a move have on museums and galleries that are already financially stretched? Is publicity and promotion fair recompense for artists?

Vote in the poll and have your say in the comment box below.


Should artists be paid for taking part in publicly funded exhibitions?


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15.07.2014, 08:11
We can't continue to strive for excellence in the arts and cultural sphere if we refuse to fairly reimburse artists for their contributions to publicly funded exhibitions. In the long run, exhibitions will suffer as artists will be unable to continue to be involved and affectively subsidise their own contributions.
08.07.2014, 15:56
Do museums get free electricity? Is the chap who fixes the toilets when they're broken paid? The stuff in the museum shop, is that all made and supplied for free? Is the printshop given money for flyers and posters they priduce? Is the curator paid? Are the people who work at the funder who gives you money to pay that curator? If everyone else is paid, why not the artist making the things which people come to see, which mean everyone else has a job they can get paid for?
08.07.2014, 14:34
Artists are not the only contributors to museum content that often do so without pay. I cite volunteers, guest speakers and volunteer members of local special interest groups taking part in events as examples.

It is a sign of the times that financially poor organizations try to get more done for free. If it becomes exploitation then people can vote with their feet. Maybe volunteer run museums should pay their staff?

Many museums run selling exhibitions where the artist earns income on merit and pays an agreed commission to the museum which is quite a fair way of doing things. I myself once paid to exhibit my own work in the street on two occasions and all in all made a financial loss but I am not complaining-sometimes you just can't get a break. The art world is not kind, and sometimes the effort is not rewarded.

Furthermore it is almost a given that anyone working in the cultural industry will have to work for free at some point to build up their CV. Some people even do a bit of volunteering on the side to build up their work profile.
08.07.2014, 15:48
An interesting argument. I assume you're unpaid for your work? If not, you've just made an excellent argument for the organisation you work for asking you to do it for free. It'll be good for your profile and your CV, after all.
08.07.2014, 16:56
Some of it yes. Especially now I have been made redundant. I agree that payment should be made where it is due-for example if a museum commissions work. Sure I worked as a volunteer to get where I am, as I am sure many professional artists have done.
Jason Finch
MA Member
08.07.2014, 06:50
If you are asking artists to create new works of art or commit time and effort to a project, of course you should pay them! If I'm putting on an exhibition and need a new display cabinet, I would expect to pay for it.

The publicity and promotion argument is a strange one. Can you eat publicity? (well, I guess you could try living on a diet of handouts and posters!) Will your landlord accept promotion as your rent?

Artists involved in such exhibitions are 'professional' usually, in the sense that it is how they earn a living, Why on earth should they not be paid?
Rebecca Atkinson
MA Member
Online Publications Editor, Museums Association
08.07.2014, 09:52
There is an argument used by some galleries that including an artist's work helps raise their profile, thus potentially leading to sales. It's also an argument that writers, photographers and other face when being offered the chance to publish/exhibit (without pay) or not!
08.07.2014, 17:12
Sadly many great artists don't succeed in their own lifetime. I wouldn't say don't be a professional artist if no one is willing to pay for it as that would be like telling Van Gogh not to paint Sunflowers. I'm sympathetic-especially when an unmade bed commands millions but like with museum jobs competition dictates that we all work for free at some point.
08.07.2014, 15:50
Are you paid as Online Publications Editor? Only, I'm also an experienced editor and writer - so if the Museums Association would like to save on your wages, I'll do your job for free.
Rebecca Atkinson
MA Member
Online Publications Editor, Museums Association
14.07.2014, 16:28
There are just provocations, not an opinion! As you can see from the poll results so far, most people believe artists should be paid (despite previous research suggesting they are not).
Jason Finch
MA Member
08.07.2014, 12:39
Yes, I understand the concept but it is to my mind a strange argument. This idea that you might get publicity so you might get some money out of it eventually makes it sounds like you are doing them a favour.

I think it still ignores the basic point that artists are like the rest of us, they have bills, they do work because they need money today...not the chance of something tomorrow. If we expect them to create something new for an exhibition then it is only fair to pay them (and also take a profit of a sale that comes about because we exhibit that work) .
08.07.2014, 17:26
It is not as simple as a yes or no answer. Depends on the context.