If you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, The Artists’ Bond probably isn’t for you. “This year’s total annual payout currently stands at 32p,” says Ellie Harrison, the Glasgow-based artist who founded the scheme in 2011. “It will be paid by BACS this August.”
In keeping with the prevailing economic mood, that figure is significantly down on the previous year (September 2011-August 2012), when winnings skyrocketed to an eyewatering £50. When split between what at the time was a forty-strong membership, each artist received a payment of £1.25. It’s a good job then that big money prizes aren’t what this is about. “Given the annual payouts so far, I’d say the last thing The Artists’ Bond could be described as is a practical funding stream!” smiles Harrison.
The Artists’ Bond is essentially a Premium Bonds syndicate. Participants sign up with an initial investment of £30, the aim being to expand the scheme annually up to a maximum of 1,000 artists. Membership currently stands at eighty, and from 1 April to 1 July 2013, forty new places will be made available – allowing practising artists to join the likes of David Blandy, Hayley Neman, Jamie Shovlin and Harrison herself.
Harrison explains that, so far, they have received many more expressions of interest than there is space for. And, once it’s been established that applicants are UK-based artists – “preferably with a few years experience and not still students” – the process of choosing who is accepted is, appropriately, another game of chance. “People are selected at random, using a machine not dissimilar to ERNIE himself,” says Harrison. “If they don’t get in, they can always keep applying in subsequent years.”
The point of all this, of course, is to make a point. “The Artists’ Bond and its predecessor the Artists’ Lottery Syndicate are conceptual art works as well as taking a working form in the real world,” says Harrison. “They were set up as a comment on the marketisation of arts funding in the UK and the shift of responsibility for funding away from the state to the individual.”
Harrison explains that, in common with these forms of state-sponsored gambling, chance and luck are “things which can often play a pivotal role in an artist’s career.” Much like Harrison’s Bring Back British Rail campaign, collaboration for the collective good, rather than competition, is at the heart of the scheme.
“It brings to the fore questions relating to ‘success’ and ‘value’ within the arts,” says Harrison. “The aim is to forge a new sense of camaraderie between members, rather than pitting them against each other, as is often the case in competitive funding situations.”
Or, to put it another way: “It’s a bit of collective fun, rather than a serious gambling problem!”
To find out more about The Artists’ Bond and how to sign up, visit www.artistsbond.co.uk