Tag Archives: artist opportunities


31 Jul

monopoly manVia artist Mimei Thompson on the F***book, news of a property developer soon to be bulldozing over a hundred artist studios near Hackney Road in London. They’ll be replaced by a twenty storey tower with “workspace” (whatever that is) and 170 homes including “a number of affordable”. Britain’s cities and towns desperately need more and better housing accessible to everyone regardless of their income, but we all know what the “number” of affordable units will be: as few as possible, probably with a separate door so the poors don’t rub their poor all over the investment/money laundering boxes of all the Chinese, Russian and Arab one percenters who are just about the only people who can buy these places. Affordable is a laughably– and conveniently– ill-defined and slippery developers’ term anyway.

Don’t worry, though, the loss of this artist community (who stupidly, inconveniently brought life to a rundown area and made it attractive to developers in the first place) will not go unmarked. The developers and Eastside Educational Trust are offering a princely £1000 sculpture prize. “The winning artist will receive funds to make their sculpture, as well as a £1,000 cash prize, and the exciting chance to have their piece exhibited as a public work of art.” It’s probably not conscious, but note that they avoid the word “work” in favour of the word “piece”. The page linked here gives the number of new homes as “over 200”. An attempt to contact them about the prize met with– oops or not oops?– an out of office autoreply stating that the person responsible wouldn’t be back until the second week of August. That’s how bothered they are in whether artists actually apply for it or not, anyway. UPDATE: See below.

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17 Jul


The early Christian writer Lactantius– who advised the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I– told the story of how the Roman king Tarquinius Priscus acquired the Sibylline books which were kept in Rome’s Capitoline temple for consultation, guidance and divination in times of trouble. Although Priscus bought them, they were eventually considered priceless and remained in the temple for many centuries until they and the temple were destroyed by fire in 83 BC.

The Sibylline books took their name from their keeper, the Cumaean Sibyl, high priestess of the Apollonian Oracle at Cumae near modern day Naples. At some point between 616 and 579 BC, she made Priscus an offer he initially thought he could refuse:

They say that Amalthea, the Sibyl from Cumae, brought nine books to the king Tarquinius Priscus, and asked 300 gold pieces for them. The king refused, saying it was far too much, and derided the woman, saying she was mad. So in the sight of the king, she burnt three of the books, and demanded the same price for the remaining six. Tarquinius thought her even madder. When she burnt three more, but persisted in demanding the same price, the king was thrown into turmoil and bought the remaining books for the original price.


In recent years some people have occasionally mooted the idea of artists going on strike to drive home how much local, national, international and art world economies rely upon the work that creative people do, much of it– as we all know– woefully underpaid and unappreciated, taken for granted, or not paid at all. I have no idea how an artist strike would work in practice, or what artists comprehensively withdrawing their labour would actually entail; I don’t think anybody does because it’s pretty much a cloud cuckoo land proposition. We already have a huge cohort of scab artists who’ll undercut and undermine colleagues who refuse to work for low or no pay. The artistic and creative industries rely upon this fact to a very large extent, actually, hence the constant issuing forth from corporate offices of so-called opportunities that are “viral”, “get your work in front of industry leaders” or “great exposure” but also PURELY BY COINCIDENCE OBVIOUSLY would cost them thousands if they paid anybody to do them properly.

Even so, I do think it’s worth artists maintaining an inner Sibyl who simply won’t negotiate or be bullied when it comes to the value of what she does and how much value it brings to other people. Be the prophetess who would rather burn her work and be thought mad than give it away.


16 Oct

Mr Barlow the vampire, from "Salem's Lot' It just seems appropriate in some way.

The New York-based group W.A.G.E. have for some time been advocating better pay and conditions for artists, and more accountability by the organisations and businesses who profit materially from their labour. Now they’ve launched a certification system for places that meet their guidelines of voluntarily and fairly remunerating artists. I won’t add too much commentary because I suggest you go over there and read it all if you’re an artist or you work with artists, whether you’re based in the USA or not.

Among all the professionals who participate in this economy, artists are often alone among those whose contributions go uncompensated. While many non-profit arts organizations provide fees to artists for some forms of participation, fees are rarely provided for the most basic contributions artists make. Exhibition budgets include compensation for curators, writers, insurers, shippers, designers, printers, preparators, caterers and event organizers, among many others, but rarely for the artists on whom the exhibition itself depends.

Definitions of various types of work, or working relationships, that an artist may have with an arts organisation and for which they should be paid.

Their fee calculator. Note that their minimum levels, although quite low, are still far more than many artists currently get. This is just as true in the UK as it is elsewhere, even though the UK– despite vicious ideological cuts by the Conservatives and their so-called “austerity” measures, not to mention a tiny fraction of GDP funding it all to begin with– has one of the world’s most generous, functional and comprehensive systems of state funding for the arts. It just doesn’t filter through to artists, for the most part. As W.A.G.E. point out, and I have noted many times, none of these publicly funded places would think of telling their caterers or printers that they shouldn’t expect to be paid because “there’s no budget for it.” Their attitude seems to be thanks for the lifeblood, hope you don’t die so we can bleed you some more later.

The W.A.G.E. minimum fee for a solo exhibition is only $1000 (€790 or £630), for example. Bear in mind that most artists are lucky to have one solo exhibition per year. At these rates she or he would need to have one for every month of the year to earn the meagre pre-tax figure of $12,000 PA. For an artist talk or reading, the W.A.G.E. minimum is $150 (€120 or £95). Although these are minimums and obviously the hope is that organisations voluntarily pay more if they can, it should be emphasised that these are not ambitious figures by any reasonable standard and they’re setting the bar very low. Which is not a dig at W.A.G.E. in any manner whatsoever. It’s just indicative of how disgracefully and contemptuously the art world has learned to treat it’s most precious assets, i.e. artists.

The W.A.G.E. wo/manifesto:



30 Sep

Oscillating between ham and lettuce, this work investigates the fundamental dichotomy of the “hand made” and the mass produced commodity object. This artist’s work has a feminist subtext that hovers at the edge of our perception while paradoxically foregrounding traditions of feminine domestic practice.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the word “artist” has been so repeatedly gangbanged in recent years and its openings are so stretched out that it can accommodate almost anyone or anything now… and therefore it means almost nothing. A friend (who actually is an artist of the increasingly rare kind who makes art) recently received an email from a job mailing list, featuring this astounding opportunity for an artist:

Sandwich Artist Subway – Subway is now hiring for full and part time Sandwich Artists. Duties will include: Prep, making sandwich and customer service. We provide uniforms. No experience required… Salary is based on experience, we have great opportunities for advancement! Positions available immediately.

Yes, the word “artist” can now accomodate six inches of bread, generic processed mystery meats and your choice of salad. Or you can try a foot long, if you’re really a sad old size queen. What, you thought I was going to write about Subway without six inches or twelve innuendo? I bear no animosity whatsoever towards the people who do this job, but serving food can be a horrible, demoralising occupation. I don’t see why the poor bastards have to be lumbered with being “artists”, too. It’s worse than somebody who makes coffee in Starbucks being called a barista.

You may assume this is just some overzealous David Brent-alike local manager being a pretentious twat, but “Sandwich Artist” is actually the franchise company’s (trademarked, as if anybody would want to steal it) official terminology for the people who make sandwiches in their shops. So it’s Subway brand owners Doctor’s Associates who are being pretentious twats at the corporate level. I like the way Wikipedia notes, deadpan, that “Doctor’s Associates is not affiliated with, nor endorsed by, any medical organization.” Imagine my surprise.

Sandwich Artists™ have a positive outlook, thrive in a busy work environment and are keen to learn the art of great sandwich making. You will work well as part of a team, making delicious sandwiches to customer requirements. You will be responsible for serving customers, following health and safety procedures, and keeping the store clean.

So in future, when you want to experience art don’t bother with stupid old art galleries. The real artists are team players who are keen to learn the art of great sandwich making.


31 Jul

Image from the somewhat surreal http://www.thebollardshop.com. Get your Slough-style bollards there. Is it just me, or does the lack of scale references in this image and the way they’re clustered together suggest another, more “adult” type of web store?

Via Artquest, who themselves wryly and slyly editorialise that it’s “a load of bollards”, another fine opportunity to work for nothing and to create a hideous public eyesore courtesy of Lambeth council:

“We are removing hundreds of metal bollards from our streets in London Borough of Lambeth as a de-cluttering exercise. In the current batch of works, the number would be close to a thousand, and we will be removing many more in near future. These will be recycled by our highways contractor, unless we find a better use for them.

‘If anyone would like to use these bollards for some public art / sculpture, they would be more than welcome to have them for free, but we would like the artwork to be installed in Lambeth. If someone can come up with an idea for their use in public furniture, such as seating, planters, etc. then it would be another good use. Occasionally we also find some very old bollards with unusual designs and sizes.”

So let’s recap:

You’re de-cluttering the streets by removing functional bollards, then immediately looking to re-clutter the streets with “close to a thousand” non-functional bollards.

Lambeth Council apparently thinks public art and sculpture consists of just piling up old crap. You’re a local authority, not an Etsy vendor or a home makeover TV show. “Yeah, so I jazzed up this boring courtyard area with some art made from upcycled bollards…”

Planters? Perhaps you could give us some clues as to how one would turn a bollard into a planter? Do you have any idea what plants (or indeed bollards) are and how they work?

Of course there’s no mention of money, whether it’s the money they’re presumably trying to stiff their contractors of by not having them dispose of the bollards, or the money that a local authority should pay to an artist when they commission a work of public art from her or him. For reference, the same bulletin at Artquest also has advertisements for legitimate public art commissions in Belfast with a budget of about £40,000, and in Swansea with budgets of between £40,000 and £100,000. Do you know why? Because that’s what it costs in order to have a professional artist and the team of people who support that artist design, fabricate and install a major work of art in a public place so it will be durable, suitably sited and safe.

PS: The owner of monomaniacal blog Bollards of London is going to be seriously pissed off that they’re doing away with a thousand bollards.

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