A new report into artists’ experiences in the UK reveals the gulf between the expectations of artists and publicly-funded galleries. Many venues believe that artists don’t expect fees, while the issue of artists’ pay and costs are not seen as a priority by organisations.

Commissioned by a-n The Artists Information Company and AIR Artists Interaction and Representation from dha communications, the Paying Artists Research aims to identify good and poor practice, and to consider what kind of recommendations might be made for sharing and spreading good practice more widely.

Phase 1 of the research is based on an online survey of over 1,000 artists’ experiences of exhibition practice. The full report follows the publication earlier this year of an Infographic with headline outcomes.

Phase 2 is an overview of the main findings from in-depth interviews with artists and publicly-funded venues, and deepens understanding of the Phase 1 data. This document explores perceptions and issues from both sides of the experience.

Fees and expectations

On the whole, venues report artists not expecting fees, with early career artists not generally asking for fees. One interviewee said: “From my experience, artists usually don’t ask for a fee. They don’t have expectations.”

Not all artists report positive experiences in relation to expenses and the wider costs to themselves of exhibiting. For galleries, fees for exhibiting are not seen as a priority, with artists’ costs appearing low on the list of budget priorities for exhibitions.

Most curators felt it would be prohibitively expensive to pay exhibition fees to artists in a group show, although one did respond: “I try to give each artist something, even if it’s only 50 quid.”

The next phase

This data gathered in the report provides the platform for the next phase of the campaign – the launch of an advocacy programme, developed through consultation with artists.

Members of the AIR Council have already presented the findings to artists through a series of consultation meetings at Castlefield Gallery in Manchester, Motorcade/Flashparade in Bristol and Bow Arts in East London. AIR Council members have also delivered workshops on the findings at the Art Party Conference, AD:UK conference, Engage conference, plus internationally at the IAA conference in Oslo.

This initial activity has already led to a groundswell of discussion and debate around the payment of artists. This includes Arts Council England Chief Executive Alan Davey directly responding to the data in a live web chat in November. He said: “We are aware of this issue and recognise there are concerns within the sector. We are considering the guidance for NPOs applying for funding in 2015-18.”

As part of this process, a-n Director Susan Jones has also collated key historical documents and evidence that informed a-n’s publication of fees and payments guidance and good practice documents. Her report aims to widen understanding of the history of prior good practice, as well as the thinking and attitudes around payment to artists.

You can read and download pdfs of the full Paying Artists Research here.

Join the conversation on Twitter using the tag #PayArtists