This report into artists’ pay and working conditions published by Industria and a-n The Artists Information Company reveals the extent of underpayment of artists in the UK’s public art sector. Structurally F–cked draws its title and data from testimonies gathered through Artist Leaks, an anonymous online survey of visual artists conducted by Industria.
Artist Leaks received 104 responses 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. Key findings include:
- An overall median hourly rate of £2.60 per hour, dramatically below the UK minimum wage of £9.50 per hour.
- The median hourly rate falls to £1.88 per hour when focused on the production of artworks and exhibition-making.
- 76% of responses reported fees below minimum wage.
- Lump-sums are a common form of payment for artists, often obfuscating the many hours of labour involved in a project.
- 74% of respondents stated they felt the artist fee received was ‘unfair’ in relation to the scale of the work.
The testimonies also reveal how artists, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, have been forced to sustain multiple additional jobs to subsidise poorly paid commissions in the public art sector, or have decided to leave the artworld entirely to protect their mental health and financial security. This supports recent data by the Office for National Statistics which reveals a rapidly shrinking proportion of working-class people in the creative sector.
Structurally F–cked concludes with proposals for new ways in which publicly funded institutions can better work with artists. It calls for commissioners to commit immediately to paying artists at least minimum wage and work towards the introduction of an ‘artists and freelancers’ living wage. It also appeals for a radical shift in transparency in the sector by asking institutions to provide breakdowns of ‘lump sums’ into hourly and daily rates.
- Lola Olufemi, Juliet Jacques, Jack Ky Tan
- a-n The Artists Information Company
- March 2023