Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh has responded to comments from artists and withdrawn what was advertised as an unpaid ‘one-off opportunity’ to install Jim Lambie’s Zobop floor piece at the gallery. The Glasgow artist’s solo exhibition, which opens 27 June, is part of the Scotland-wide Generation programme, celebrating the last 25 years of artists’ practice in the country.

A statement sent to a-n from the gallery said:The Fruitmarket Gallery pays its information assistants, installation teams and all artists working in our learning programmes, the Edinburgh Living Wage or above. In this instance, we thought in good faith that we could offer a one-off short term opportunity that might interest people in our audience who have some free time and are interested in joining in with an installation for a few days.

“We have listened to comments, wholeheartedly support a-n’s Paying Artists Campaign, and withdraw the offer. We will use paid installers to install the piece.”

Originally posted on its website and Facebook page on Monday, the advert asked for up to eight people to commit to working a minimum of six days each over a 12-day install period. The volunteers, who were to work a 9-5 day alongside the gallery’s installation staff and artist’s assistants, were offered lunch, an exhibition catalogue and an invite to the show’s private view ‘as a thank you’.

Immediate response

The response on Twitter and Facebook to the advert was immediate. Artist Morgan Cahn wrote: “I just can’t fathom why Jim and the Fruitmarket wouldn’t want to pay some young artists for this. That would be an excellent opportunity for THEM to put money and knowledge into their community.”

Glasgow artist Janie Nicoll said: “It seems like really bad practice dressed up as an opportunity.” Edinburgh-based artist and lecturer Alan Holligan added: “The immediate problem with these kinds of unpaid opportunities is who is available to take them up. One of the wonderful things about paying people is that it democratizes the opportunity by opening it up to those who cannot afford to work for nothing.”

Artist Kevin Harman, a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, recalled being paid for installing a Lambie floor piece during his second year at college: “We got paid £6 an hour, it was a good experience, which I wouldn’t have been able to participate in if it was unpaid as I had to earn some dosh to pay for rent, materials, etc…”

Commenting on Twitter, Joanne Tatham said: “Payment for such work sustains artists and the communities now celebrated by the #generation project.” Glasgow-based writer and artist Fiona Jardine (@fdjardine) wrote: “This kind of work underscores the Glasgow scene we’ve heard so much about… Why can’t #Generation @fruitmarket support it?”

Asked by a-n to respond to this specific question, the gallery, which is one of Creative Scotland’s regularly funded venues with a grant in aid for 2013-14 of £666,600, said: “The Fruitmarket Gallery has received £3,000 from Generation towards our exhibition. This is in addition to our regular funding from Creative Scotland, which is the only regular public funding we receive, and accounts for around 50% of our costs. The rest we raise.

“Our entire existence and programme supports artists and audiences in Scotland and beyond. We are proud to pay the Edinburgh Living Wage or above to all our staff, and entrance to our exhibitions is always free.”

Creative Scotland comment

Asked to comment on the issue of unpaid volunteers, a spokesperson for Creative Scotland said: “Creative Scotland is supportive of the Paying Artists Campaign. This campaign reflects the principle laid out in our 10 Year Plan of encouraging better levels of remuneration for artists, in order to ensure that Scotland is a country where they can live and work and that their contribution to all or lives is recognised.

“Voluntary positions do have an important role to play and can often present genuine opportunities for people to gain valuable experience in the art, screen and creative industries, to learn and to make a contribution on their own terms.

“In parallel to this, we will be working to encourage the organisations that we fund to develop clear policies around volunteering and to ensure that trained, practicing artists and creative practitioners are always paid fairly.”

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