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Livelihoods of Visual Artists: 2016 Data Report

July 31, 201931 July 2019

Situation of artists

Arts Council England



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Billed as a “comprehensive study into how visual artists in England live and work”, this report examines incomes of visual artists, factors influencing career development, and the geographic concentrations of visual artists. It is based on a survey of 2,007 artists in March 2016 and, according to the authors, “represents the largest survey undertaken of artists in England”. As is the case for all surveys where individuals self-select whether to respond, there is uncertainty as to whether the responses provide a representative sample of all visual artists in England.

The report finds that the average total income for visual artists in the UK is £16,500 in 2015 (equivalent to $27,700 CAD), and that the average income derived from art practice is £6,020 (equivalent to $10,100 CAD). When asked whether their art income was sufficient to live on:

  • 90% of artists indicated that they do not earn enough from art practice to support their livelihood.
  • 7% indicated that “it is enough to live on but only barely”.
  • 3% indicated that “their art income is sufficient to live on comfortably”.

Given this situation, 69% of visual artists have another job to supplement their art income.

Respondents were asked about key factors that motivate and enable them to “develop and progress” in their careers: the most important factors are “having the opportunity to exhibit, perform, or publish at a critical time (48%); support from family / friend / peers (43%); and artists’ talent (34%)”.

When asked about barriers to continuing their careers, respondents identified “lack of financial return (80%), lack of time to practice their art (62%), and lack of access to funding or financial support (56%)”. The report notes that, “despite these barriers making it difficult for artists to earn a living from their practice alone, they are not deterred, and 94% plan to continue working as an artist.”

In examining where artists are located, the report finds that visual artists are “disproportionately located in London with 29% of respondents living in London, compared to 16% of the population as a whole”.

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