AIR – Artists Interaction and Representation is leading a campaign designed to improve the pay and conditions for visual and applied artists who show work in publicly-funded galleries.

As part of the campaign, DHA consultants have been commissioned to conduct various stages of research. This will provide AIR + a-n with a sound evidence base for future lobbying, campaigning and advocacy and ultimately could help to shape positive policy change for exhibiting artists.

Phase 1

The first stage of this research was the Paying Artists Survey which ran for two weeks between Friday 22 February and Monday 11 March 2013. All artists were invited to take part in this unique, UK-wide survey that explored artists’ experiences of exhibiting their work in publicly-funded venues.

It was circulated through existing communications routes to all a-n artists and AIR membership and also via partners including Artquest, DACS, Engage and Axis.

There were approximately 30 questions about expenses, fees and support when exhibiting. The survey also focused on most recent exhibition experiences.

For artists to take part all was needed was a spare 15 minutes and some detailed knowledge of their most recent exhibiting experience, such as fee received, expenses paid, support given by the venue to install work. They were also asked about annual income from art practice and overhead costs.

All information remained anonymous with data used for comparative analysis only. Individual respondents were not be named or quoted without permission.

View Infographic of results 


Phase 2

The second stage of the research is currently underway. Building on the findings of phase 1, DHA have identified artist and gallery interviewees in order to build a significant body of good practice case studies.

The output of this research will be a range of written materials including interviews and toolkits for disemination. These will be used as supporting material for the next stage in the campaign.


Background information on the Paying Artists Campaign

AIR and a-n are working together on this campaign that aims to create long-term change in the status and recognition of artists. They have commissioned consultants DHA communications to undertake research amongst artists and galleries and to advise on advocacy and campaigning, strategies.

The first stage of the research is a survey to artists, that has been informed by related research by WAGE (USA). Open to all practising visual and applied artists in the UK, it aims to find out about their levels of income from practice and overhead costs. Artists will also be asked for their specific experiences of exhibiting in publicly-funded galleries in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The survey that will address careers stage and location will also draw out artists’ experiences of good practice when exhibiting and their perceptions of any barriers they have encountered when seeking to present their work through exhibitions.

This research is timely as other industry bodies are now raising concerns in different artform areas about the levels of payment for practitioners. The Musicians’ Union, for example, is running the ‘Work Not Play’ campaign to support fair pay for professional musicians, underpinned by The Working Musician research study that looked at pay levels of musicians.

However, whilst current discussions on workforce development and support in the cultural sector more widely have focused on living wages for the lowest paid and suitable payment for interns, there has been little discussion within arts policymakers of how to ensure appropriate pay for professional artists for their unique contribution to culture and wellbeing.

This Paying artists campaign aims to create the need for and confidence to deliver long-term change in the status and recognition of visual artists within the public sector through access to persuasive evidence, advocacy and the consolidation of visual arts peer networks.

As AIR Council member Emily Speed has commented in her blog: “Everybody keeps shifting the responsibility of sustaining artists (the real lifeblood of the arts) to some other group”.

Keep your membership of a-n+AIR in date to be amongst the first to hear about evidence, forums and advocacy opportunities within this campaign.

Follow updates on the campaign at: or via Twitter: @AIR_artists

Twitter tag: #PayArtists February 2013