New campaign calls for fair pay for artists

Visual Arts Writer

A 2017 solution to an industrial problem – artists and arts professionals need to be remunerated fairly for their time and skills.
New campaign calls for fair pay for artists

Photo: Tanja Bruckner, 2017

The National Association for the Visual Artist (NAVA) has today launched a new advocacy campaign – Fair Pay for Artists.

The campaign calls for long overdue industrial fairness for artists and arts professionals. Speaking out in support, Indigenous artist Julie Gough said: ‘Artists should be recognised as professionals in their field, and paid at an established rate for their work.


‘It is only by valuing the arts in this concrete, funded way, hence aligned to other careers and fields, that artists can commit to contribute continually and at a high level to this critical backbone of societal wellbeing,’ she said.

The campaign is focusing on three key issues: artists’ fees, superannuation, and an artists’ pension scheme.

Tamara Winikoff OAM, Executive Director of NAVA said: ‘The NAVA campaign is bent on making change so that artists’ work is appropriately valued and respected and artists and other art professionals are fairly remunerated for their time and skills.’

The campaign has the backing of the Australian Greens. Arts spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: ‘In 2016 the Greens announced that we will support artists’ incomes by investing $20 million over four years into a fund so that organisations can pay artists fees for works that are publicly displayed.’ 

Over the last two years, artists have been increasingly disadvantaged because of Government cut backs, with an estimated 70% loss of grant opportunities. The Federal Government’s ‘Catalyst’ program does not ameliorate these problems.

As organisational support has contracted, the budgets of small to medium art spaces have become extremely tight, and artists fees are jeopardised.

Executive Director of Sydney based Artspace, Alexie Glass-Kantor said: ‘Support for programming and operations is critically important, and we believe that the current Government’s funding cuts are having a detrimental impact on the arts sector.’

The campaign's three platforms are:

Photo: Tanja Bruckner, 2017

1. Artists' Fees

NAVA has started a petition asking the Federal Government to allocate $5 million a year for under-resourced galleries so that they can pay artists' fees at the recommended industry rate.

NAVA is proposing that these funds be distributed through a new Artists Fees Fund administered by the Australia Council. The fees would be paid for work commissioned or borrowed by public galleries for exhibition where the work is not for sale.

The recommended fee levels for the art industry are published in NAVA's The Code of Practice for the Professional Australian Visual Arts, Craft and Design Sector.

Claire Sourgnes, CEO of Brisbane based contemporary craft and design organisation, Artisan, said: ’With ever-decreasing funding, this base line for best practice is being undermined and put under increasing pressure.’

Photo: Tanja Bruckner, 2017

2. Superannuation

Most working Australians take it for granted that everyone working is receiving superannuation benefits. Unlike most other professionals, artists and other art professionals are not consistently being enabled to provide for their old age.

Artist and NAVA board member Sally Smart said: ‘People are often surprised to learn that artists don't receive superannuation through the course of their professional work as artists.’

Michael Fox, Melbourne based arts accountant and valuer explained: ‘Artist fees should attract superannuation because every other worker in Australia is paid compulsory super on their "ordinary time earnings". Artist fees are no different to this principle.'

Fox made the point that artists typically work long hours, beyond what is required to fulfil the requirements of their artist fee. The superannuation on that fee needs to be set aside for their retirement.

Smart added: ‘This is also a gender issue, as many women do not receive or are under-funded in regards to superannuation. There needs to be a radical rethink on policy to redress this current inequity and unfairness.'

Photo: Tanja Bruckner, 2017

3. Artists' Income Supplement

The social security system is not geared to respond appropriately. NAVA is equally committed to artists having a guaranteed living wage.

NAVA is calling for the establishment of an Artists Income Supplement pension scheme to support artists when their income drops below the poverty level.

Photo: Tanja Bruckner, 2017

How to support this campaign

  • Sign the petition
  • Share the petition on social media #fairpayforartists
  • Write to the Arts Minister and arts representatives in other political parties
  • Write to the Australia Council for the Arts asking they make it mandatory for their grants recipients to pay artist fees at least at industry rates

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