Paying Artists: Valuing Art, Valuing Artists

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Unlike some other countries, including Canada, visual artists in the United Kingdom do not have a standard fee structure for exhibiting in public galleries. The “Paying Artists” campaign, which is attempting to change that, has produced a number of research reports.

A 2013 survey of 1,061 artists was conducted and summarized in a report on “Phase 1 Findings”. As with all online surveys where individuals self-select whether to respond, the responses may not provide a statistically representative sample of all U.K. visual artists.

The survey finds that 71% of respondents are female. In terms of career phase, 45% of respondents consider themselves emerging artists, 37% mid-career artists, 14% established artists, and 3% students.

Regarding their income from their practice (before expenses), 8% of artists reported no income, and another 64% reported less than £10,000 of income (roughly $20,000 in Canadian dollars). Another 17% of artists earned between £10,001 and £20,000 ($20,000 to $40,000 CDN), and 7% earned between £20,001 and £30,000 ($40,000 to $60,000 CDN). Only 4% of artists earn more than £30,001 ($60,000 CDN) from their practice. Concerning sources of income for their practice, the survey finds that artists rank commissions most highly, followed by teaching, sales, and exhibitions.

About one-half of respondents (51%) earn 25% or less of their overall income from their art or craft practice.  In other words, many visual artists “earn significant proportions of their income from other activities outside their practice”.

Regarding the importance of exhibitions, the survey found that “the most important functions of an exhibition from an artist’s perspective are to raise the profile of their work across the visual arts and to provide a vehicle for sharing their work with the public”. The number one barrier to exhibiting work is that it is “too expensive”.

A 2014 report (“Securing a Future for Visual Arts in the U.K.”) finds that “71% of artists exhibiting in publicly-funded galleries received no fee for their work. In fact, 59% did not even receive payment for their expenses”. The report also indicates that “63% of artists have had to turn down requests from galleries to exhibit their work because they cannot afford to do so without pay.”

A 2015 survey (“Paying Artists Consultation Report 2015”) examines the views of artists, curators, and gallery representatives on the payment of artists, how to improve fee negotiations, and how fees could be calculated.

Summary: 

Unlike some other countries, including Canada, visual artists in the United Kingdom do not have a standard fee structure for exhibiting in public galleries. The “Paying Artists” campaign, which is attempting to change that, has produced a number of research reports.A 2013 survey of 1,061 artists was conducted and summarized in a report on “Phase 1 Findings”.