Two new a-n research reports covering international models for artists’ fees and the history of Exhibition Payment Right in the UK, have been published in the run up to launching the Paying Artists Campaign.

The 39-page Fees to artists for exhibiting – models of practice report draws together examples of how fees for exhibiting are arrived at in other countries and the conditions and contexts that underpin their application.

The four examples – Sweden, Norway, Canada and Poland – demonstrate different ways of financially quantifying the  value of the exchange between artists and publicly-funded galleries.

In Sweden, the government-approved Swedish MU is binding on all public institutions with an exhibiting role, and also provides guidance for professional exhibition organisers in receipt of public funding. This ‘participation and exhibition remuneration agreement’ covers payment to artists for display of work as a kind of ‘rent’, and is additional to other kinds of financial compensation for an exhibition, such as transport, installation and publication. The agreement makes it clear that all work the artist undertakes at exhibitions – before, during and after the show – is to be governed by a written contract and remunerated outside the framework of the exhibition fee.

The current situation in Norway is that artists receive two-fold ‘compensation’ for exhibition of their works: NOK (Norwegian Krone) 231 (approximately £23) per artwork per month for exhibiting, and NOK 245 per artwork per month to compensate for their lack of access to the artwork while on public exhibition.

In Canada, the Copyright Act that enshrines artists’ rights to require compensation for the use of their works when exhibited in public. Canadian artists’ association CARFAC lobbied in 1988 for inclusion of this right in the Act and ensures that rates increase annually against inflation.

The newest initiative to be mentioned is the Agreement for Minimum Payment for Artists in Poland, instigated by Obywatelskie Forum Sztuki Współczesnej (Citizens’ Forum for Contemporary Art). As with the other examples in the report, the exhibition fee in Poland is paid directly to the artist and must not be used for costs such as catalogue printing, transport and private view. Significantly, the minimum fee for a solo exhibition ‘will not be lower than the national average monthly wage in Poland’.

Exhibition Payment Right research

The companion report, Brief history of Exhibition Payment Right, tracks the journey of the Payment to Artists for Exhibition of Work scheme, from its introduction in 1979 by Arts Council of Great Britain to its effective demise in 2000. A lobby by Artists’ Union members including Conrad Atkinson in the years prior to the scheme being introduced played a significant part in this policy breakthrough.

As the timeline illustrates, there was clear enthusiasm for and allocation of budgets for payments to artists for exhibitions. Arts Council of Great 
Britain (ACBG) stated: “We are very supportive of the principle of Artists 
Exhibiting Fees. We wish to shift the emphasis of
 the scheme to accepting the principle and working 
towards the practicalities. This has resulted in the new title ‘Exhibiting Payments Right’.”

Significantly, ACGB also stated that “revenue and project-funded organisations will be obliged to include costs of their estimate of exhibiting fees in their applications. Grants may be conditional on exhibiting fees being paid.”

The report shows that it was the strong line adopted by the funding bodies that was a defining factor in establishing and maintaining exhibition payments to artists over a period of many years. The funders’ unequivocal requirement for equity in the treatment of artists by galleries and the understanding of the symbiotic relationship between artists’ work and access to it by the public were highly influential amongst the portfolio of galleries then supported, ensuring that the scheme was continued.

However, the report shows that after a substantial period of operation, arts funders effectively abandoned Exhibition Payment Right when they turned their attention to newer policies for demonstrating artists’ value to society, such as the creation of an artists’ residency programme for Year of the Artist. The result was that that the vital link between maintaining the rights of artists within the role of  publicly-funded galleries was broken.

Reflecting on how the Exhibition Payment Right might still have an influence, the report’s author Susan Jones, a-n’s director, states: “The historical evidence provided here about past frameworks or models provides a reference for how an aspiration for fair exchange might be achieved and monitored, for the benefit of artist and public alike. Significantly, Arts Council England is again calling for funded galleries to pay artists ‘properly and fairly’.”

These final reports in the Paying artists portfolio preface the launch of a strategic advocacy campaign led by a-n/AIR that aims to ensure fair payment to all artists when presenting work in publicly-funded galleries.

Read the reports in full:

Fees to artists for exhibiting – models of practice

Brief history of Exhibition Payment Right