A new report into artists’ pay and working conditions is published today by Industria and a-n The Artists Information Company, which reveals the extent of underpayment of artists in the UK’s public art sector. Highlighting a culture of low fees and unpaid labour. with key findings including a median hourly rate paid to artists of £2.60, ‘Structurally F–cked’ concludes with proposals for new ways in which publicly funded institutions can better work with artists.
Structurally F–cked draws its title and data from testimonies gathered through Artist Leaks, an online survey of visual artists conducted by Industria, an artist-run organisation that examines and challenges the current conditions of the ‘art world’.
Industria initiated the anonymous Artist Leaks survey in 2020 after a Freedom of Information Act request to Tate asking for a breakdown of artist fees was rejected on the grounds that it was not in the art gallery group’s “commercial interest” to release this data.
Artist Leaks submissions were received from artists who had been contracted to deliver projects by publicly funded galleries in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The projects ranged from major commissions and solo exhibitions, to talks and education workshops.
The extensive questionnaire invited artists to share their experiences and fees, which are typically obscured from public view. The resulting data illustrates a culture of low fees, unpaid labour, and systemic exploitation.
The report also features newly commissioned texts by Lola Olufemi, Juliet Jacques and Jack Ky Tan, reflecting on their experiences in the creative sector.
Industria said: “We would like to thank all the artists who gave their time to fill out the Artist Leaks questionnaire as part of this project, and a-n for commissioning this report. Structurally F–cked demonstrates clearly that artists are propping up the public ‘art world’ with low and unpaid labour. It is important action happens now, and while the lions’ share of the work needs to be undertaken by institutions and funders, artists also have a role to play by keeping sight of our position in relation to our fellow artists and other precarious workers, which is a crucial part of the push for a more equitable (art) world. Beyond the basic demand for fair wages, pushing for Universal Basic Services or Universal Basic Income for all is an essential part of building a future in which everyone, artists included, can live without precarity.”
Julie Lomax, Chief Executive Officer of a-n, said: “We applaud Industria and the artists that have contributed to this report for their courage in telling their stories, and voicing a clear call to action. a-n recognises that structural underfunding of the visual arts sector is a key factor in the issue of low to no pay for artists. Collective responsibility is a powerful action and we call on funders, institutions, galleries, curators and collectors to place the artist at the centre and develop new economies of exchange based on transparency, fair pay, care and respect. We also call on artists to seek support from a-n, to use the guidance and tools available to negotiate better rates of pay for their labour and work in solidarity with fellow artists. a-n’s work is shaped by artists’ activism and the publication of Structurally F–cked is the first step in relaunching a-n’s Paying Artists resources with a new Code of Practice for artists and the visual arts sector due to be published soon.”