A new campaign aimed at securing a fair deal for artists working with publicly funded galleries in the UK is launched today. Led by a-n and AIR, the Paying Artists campaign comes after research revealed that more than 70% of artists are not paid for contributing their work to publicly-funded exhibitions. Almost as many have turned down offers from galleries because they can’t afford to work for nothing.

The campaign, which has its own dedicated website at www.payingartists.org.uk, is supported by some of the UK’s leading arts organisations including the Design and Copyright Society (DACS), Artquest, Axisweb, NSEAD and Arts Development UK. International support has come from the Swedish Artists’ National Organisation, CARFAC in Canada and Visarte in Switzerland.

Susan Jones, director of a-n the Artists Information Company, said: “Unless we start valuing the artist as well as the art, in future galleries will only be showing work by the privileged few who can afford to work for nothing. The Paying Artists campaign is about tackling the inequalities faced by artists and giving galleries and the visiting public access to quality art that genuinely covers the spectrum of human experience.”

Artists are invited to show their support for the campaign by signing up on the website. a-n and AIR are also keen for artists to start their own discussions within their studio groups and other networks.

Messages of support

The Paying Artists campaign website includes information, research and case studies from artists and galleries. Liz Whitehead, gallery co-director at Fabrica, Brighton, said: “I know that some galleries don’t pay artists, and I can’t see how that can be justified because we expect to pay for everything else. A gallery like Fabrica commissions artists to make large pieces of work. They need to be paid for their time. Not paying artists is not an option because it wouldn’t deliver quality projects, and it would be immoral because it wouldn’t pay the person who makes the creative content.”

The campaign is attracting expressions of support from across the visual arts. Jerwood Charitable Foundation director Shonagh Manson said: “Paying artists creates value, it doesn’t simply ‘cost’. Not paying artists limits the potential of the work they can create and the value audiences derive from it. We know that talented artistic voices are lost as the challenge of making ends meet increases. We can all contribute to changing this and achieving a fairer context for artists’ practice.”

Others to voice their support for the campaign include the Scottish Artists Union. Its president, Rowena Comrie, said: “For the past 14 years the Scottish Artists Union has been campaigning for fair wages for artists; we are delighted that AIR/a-n is also supporting this work.”

Emily Pethick, director of The Showroom, a publicly-funded London gallery, said: “It’s really important to make this issue of the artists’ economy visible. There is a lot of cultural production in this country but the people who are paid least within it are the artists. It really does need a big rethink.”

DACS said: “We fully support and endorse the Paying Artists campaign to ensure that artists are paid for their work.” Creative Scotland said: “We fully support Paying Artists, reflecting the principles laid out in our 10 year plan.” April Britski, executive director, CARFAC, said: “We applaud efforts by a-n/AIR to bring artist fees back into the UK.”

Artists have also been showing their support. Northern Art Prize nominee Joanne Tatham said: “I’m in support of the Paying Artists campaign because I think it’s an incredibly important issue, and also because I’m fascinated by the way this then focuses in on the complex relationships and behaviours between artists and art organisations and the terms by which public money is made available.”

More information on the Paying Artists campaign at www.payingartists.org.uk

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