Artists fees: “The cost of labour must be paid for.” | News | a-n

Artists fees: “The cost of labour must be paid for.” | News | a-n.


Artists’ fees: “The cost of labour must be paid for.”

A speaker from New York’s W.A.G.E. campaign joined Glasgow-based artists this week to talk about the ‘non’ payment of artists’ fees. a-n reports from Glasgow.


NEWS: 20 Sep 2012

  • WAGE logo

It was while listening to the speeches at the launch of a major art festival that Corin Sworn realised something had to be done about the issue of artists’ fees.

A city councillor was talking about the huge economic impact that all this fabulous contemporary art would have – the benefits to the tourist trade, the money that would be spent in the city, the jobs and regeneration it contributed to.

Glasgow-based Canadian Sworn was one of the many artists exhibiting during the three-week festival. But, unlike the hoteliers, restaurateurs, taxi drivers and countless others, getting paid for her work involved a process of negotiation.

Sworn was speaking at a packed event in Glasgow on Tuesday night organised by the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) and Transmission Gallery(previewed here). Fellow artist Charlotte Prodger introduced the evening, explaining that it was prompted by a spate of institutions asking her to show work, but with no mention of a fee: “Silence on this issue just perpetuates the idea that artists are willing to work for free,” she said.

While acknowledging the increasingly difficult funding climate, Prodger stressed that this wasn’t an issue about cuts – it’s much more deep-rooted. Guest speaker Isla Leaver-Yap, a writer and curator, further developed this idea, relating it to the way once-radical ideas around the precarity of labour have become part of a neoliberal agenda: “Precarity of labour appears to be a choice, but actually it is more often imposed,” she said. “Each acceptance [of the idea of working for free] cements it in the culture.”

Leaver-Yap argued that if the issue was to be addressed, there were certain practices, such as artists’ fees being put towards production, which had to stop. She said: “If only the people who can afford not to be paid are making art, then those that can’t, don’t. The true cost of labour must be recognised and paid for.”

W.A.G.E. rage

The main speaker on the night was Lise Soskolne of W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy). She offered an enlightening and entertaining overview of the New York activist group’s campaigns and research. Setting the group’s work in context, she said: “People in New York are just baffled by what we do – it’s like, why should artists get paid?”

Formed in 2008, W.A.G.E. is not a union. It campaigns specifically around the issue of artists’ fees, focusing on not-for-profit galleries and museums. Soskolne showed a W.A.G.E. campaign video that distilled its objectives into succinct slogans, such as ‘Renumeration of cultural value in capital value’; ‘Mutual respect between artist and institution’; and – one for every artist, surely – ‘We demand payment for making the world more interesting’.

Soskolne made reference to filmmaker Hollis Frampton’s famous 1973 letter to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) regarding a retrospective of his work to be shown, in the words of the MOMA curator who contacted him, ‘all for love and honor and no money is included at all…’. Suffice to say, Frampton wanted to be paid.

It was, though, rather more recent information regarding New York’s art scene that proved most shocking. Soskolne talked about the results of a recent survey into artists’ fees, based on the responses of artists. By far the worst offender was Performa, ‘the internationally acclaimed biennial of new visual art performance’.

“Performa were upset by this, which is good – I think you call it naming and shaming in the UK,” said Soskolne. “They got in touch and said they wanted to make a statement. W.A.G.E. responded with, ‘Yeah, let’s meet, we’d like to see your budget.’” They’re still waiting for a reply.

An audience discussion followed the talks. Unfortunately, a-n was unable to stay for this.

More information on W.A.G.E.

More on

Wage rage – Emily Speed gives an overview of W.A.G.E. activity.

Fees & payments – advocacy, advisory and practical resources including The artist’s fees toolkit.

Code of Practice – draws from the experiences of practising artists and their collaborators to set out the principles that underpin good practice. Now in new flip-page format.

Getting Organised – Artists’ talking blog by Emily Speed advocating better working conditions for artists.

Winter Droving 2012

Check out Eden Arts Winter Droving 2012 event. This looks great.



The Winter Droving is a new event for Penrith and Eden taking place on 24th November 2012.

Featuring fire, masks, music, food and mayhem the Winter Droving is a celebration of all things  rural, magical, traditional and fun.

Make a mask!

Carry a torch!

…Come rams and lambs, heifers and hens and dance throughout the town!


The event is a celebration of Penrith and its age old role as the market place for the local area, the place where for centuries livestock and produce has been brought for sale (Droving is the practice of moving livestock over large distances by walking them “on the hoof”); how those market places were always an opportunity for a social get together – maybe a few jars and some match-making too!

COME ON DOWN!  you don’t have to ‘do’ anything other than watch, but if there is a rule (don’t like rules) then it would be WEAR A MASK (like these on this here page).  Your mask can be anything you like, but to help you we’d suggest:

  • make it half face rather than full (easier for smiling, chatting, eating and drinking)
  • theme it to the event; something rural (decorated with leaves or feathers?) or make it like an animal or a bird (for the DROVING – we’d like to see a few sheep and cows!).
  • come along to a mask making workshop
  • use one you already have!! particularly those beautiful renaissance style ones!

There are also opportunities to get involved in other ways, join in the fire procession, or to help out, or play music, or simply just come along and have a good time.  To keep up to date and to register to join in clickthis link.

For those who want to join in there are specific opportunities for musicians through BlueJam Arts (particularly brass and percussion) see here for info, stewards, local bands (we will be setting up a band stage), makers eg lantern and mask making, fire jugglers etc and volunteering to help set up (hooray) and take down (boo) the event….

We have a Pinterest board here that we use for flavours and ideas – have a look; we are using #thedroving as the twitter hashtag should you be that way inclined.

For parents and young people (and indeed non-parents and non-young people) there will be opportunities to come to mask making workshops, especially during half-term.

Keep up to date by following news here and in The Herald!!

The WINTER DROVING is a collaboration between Eden Arts and Penrith Chamber of Trade, generously supported by Eden District Council, Penrith Lottery and The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald – working together to celebrate this special place and special people.

Show&Tell. DIY Educate | Project blogs | Artists talking | a-n

Project blogs

Show&Tell. DIY Educate

By: Rosalind Davis

SHOW&TELL blog is a collection of my notes from ZeitgeistArtsProjects talks as well as other talks/conferences/debates/ exhibitions I attend.

It is a way of giving some insight to those who cannot attend these event & an archiving device for some remarkable artists,  arts organisations and projects.

via Show&Tell. DIY Educate | Project blogs | Artists talking | a-n.

Merz resurfaced | Reviews | Interface | a-n

Merz resurfaced | Reviews | Interface | a-n.

Merz resurfaced

Merz Barn, Elterwater, Lake District, Ambleside
16 – 22 July 2012

Reviewed by: Kate Gilman Brundrett »

If you go down to the woods today you’ll certainly have a surprise. That is, if you find yourself in the Cylinder’s Estate, Elterwater, home of the final Merz Barn created by Schwitters, and site of quietly unprecedented creative furore.

On entering the damp, quiet woods, the atmosphere becomes electrifying. Tarpaulins are rigged up here and there, protecting the sometimes fervent, sometimes contemplative activity beneath, whilst open fires supply a smokey misty atmosphere following a rainburst a few moments since. Evidence of making is everywhere, as is evidence of thinking, talking, imagining, inventing, playing and musing. There is something apparent that is invisible, atmospheric, like a ghostly presence or a performance just missed, you can feel it but not see it. A ramshackle stone building the size of a garage seems to be the centre of activity, featuring a makeshift kitchen too rustic for the pages of Country Life magazine. Oddball characters wander meaningfully or hang about at a table of recently consumed coffee and crumbs, fashioning an eclectic range of personalities and leaving you to guess their connection– Sculptor? Poet? Academic? Vagabond? Or head of a major national institution perhaps? They are so firmly embedded in the mysterious activity of the woods it is as if you have entered a community that has been here for hundreds of years.

Enter into the world of the Cylinder’s Estate – a small forest and outbuildings that are seeing a new lease of creative life as a promise to the legacy of the past – home to the studio of Kurt Schwitters and his final ‘Merzbau’ installation, now housed at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle.

The Estate is being brought to life again by Littoral Arts, who raised funds to buy the land for the purpose of honouring Schwitters’ life and work. It is a long term development project involving partners such as Tate, ACE, Royal Academy, RCA, Hatton Gallery and MoMA NY. But Littoral haven’t become lost in the grey papers of strategic planning, but remain true to Schwitter’s wish of maintaining a creative space to support today’s artists and nourish their experimentation.

The result is a broad ranging events and talks programme that stretches from architecture and museum-focussed projects that articulate narratives of exile and cultural displacement to contemporary craft learning and fine art student mini residencies. In recent years activities have included constructing a Merz Barn replica in the courtyard of the Royal Academy, auctioning a Damian Hirst donated spin painting, and hosting environmental sustainability and rural regeneration conferences, research seminars, intensive installation workshops and temporary exhibitions, young artists professional development support, schools and local communities projects, performance and networking events.

This year’s DIY Summer School included workshops on steam bent timber structures and sustained architecture, coppicing and hedgerow public arts, augmented with an evening talks programme, film screenings and academic research seminar featuring proposals for a Tate / Merzbau pavilion. The week concluded with a public open day, party and scything event.

It’s not just the content that is making this ongoing programme of activities stand out, but the raw, intimate nature of the events where participants ranging from academics to odd jobs people, curators, musicians, dadaists and more are thrust outside to the harsh yet beautiful elements of Lake District Central. For these seminars you won’t find goodie bags of keyrings and a thick wad of glossy printouts, nor immaculate toilet facilities with posh hand cream. Instead you will be warmly invited to share conversation under a tarp or by a fire, whilst slowly scoffing a beautifully presented array of fresh bread and cheeses, locally gathered fruits and generous amounts of coffee and cake baked in an outside oven constructed from oil cylinders. Throw in an additional spark of evening camp-fire caberet, dada-fests, performance, and fiddle music and you have perfect ingredients for creating an outdoors, eclectic communal experience extraordinaire.


Arts Professional : the UK’s leading Arts Management Magazine

Building Resilience


3 July 2012 – 19 July 2012

Each of these high impact masterclasses tackles an area of critical importance to an organisation’s success. Subjects include 5 Steps to a Successful Business Strategy, Effective Team Leadership in Tough Times, How to Plan and Manage a Great Project, Managing and Leading Change, Brilliant Bid Writing, Getting Support from Business, Creating a Fundraising Strategy, Cutting Edge Marketing on a Cut Price Budget, Introduction to Commissioning and Procurement, Managing Competing Priorities, Influencing and Negotiation Skills, Managing Stress, Delivering Peak Performance and Positive Thinking, High Impact Presentation Skills.

Contact Mark on 0191 213 1447 or email

Visit this site for more information…

Arts Professional : the UK’s leading Arts Management Magazine.