Tag Archives: money

FUNDEE

25 Apr

SOME NOTES AND CONCLUSIONS

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I’m seriously tardy because the event in question was several months ago, but SEVERAL MONTHS AGO I was invited to the artist-run Generator Projects in Dundee to talk about a-n’s Paying Artists campaign, which I have worked on over the past year or so. Generator paid me, by the way. Not very much, but proportionately more than some places have paid me when they could afford to do better. QED. In keeping with my observations about this subject over the course of many years finally, at long last, being on the agenda of artists and the organisations that work with them, the room was completely full and it didn’t take long for almost everybody to have something (often many things) to say on the subject. The conversation also bore out the same things that I and other people advocating for fair pay– or in some cases, any pay at all– have heard repeatedly when it comes to artists describing their experiences of publicly funded or otherwise not short of money institutions forming relationships with them. Generator itself is an example of how much artist-led, mostly volunteer, low-to-no-budget groups do and how important they are to the arts ecosystem in Britain, and with no prompting from me whatsoever conclusion one was:

Exactly… look how much artist-led, low-to-no-budget groups do without funding, FFS. There’s no excuse for larger and better funded galleries, museums or commissioners with full-time employees not to do at least as well in providing opportunities and support for large numbers of artists. Most of them don’t. Alongside this we should also remember, though, that just because most artists don’t do it for the money it doesn’t mean they should do it without any money. There’s a huge value in grassroots peer support (and in fact I’m putting together an experiment along those lines now) but the discussion in Dundee and a-n’s other national consultations have revealed a fairly firm consensus that small, self-organised and artist-led groups should not be held to the same standards as a formal organisation, nor should they be expected to compete with these organisations for funding and other resources. They also shouldn’t be pressured to take up the slack left by locally and nationally funded organisations not facing up to their responsibilities.

On the contrary, a number of people voiced another widely held view among artists: the large flagship institutions that grew up around the UK over the past fifteen years or so– often as Millennium projects, or as part of a regeneration agenda– could and should be acting as umbrellas for smaller organisations (and non-organisations). Self-organised groups of artists, and grassroots projects trying to revive dead buildings or moribund high streets don’t have PR people, administrators or technicians sitting around flicking themselves off in brand new custom-built offices, but the capital and regional flagship galleries do. I know from firsthand experience that people who work for small and barely funded non-building-based arts organisations all work their arses off, just as I also know from firsthand experience that some of their overpaid counterparts in the largest and most prestigious organisations wouldn’t know what hard work was if it hit them in the face. This is particularly galling when some of them offer “free publicity” or something similar as if it’s a fair substitute for not being paid. Why can’t they offer this PR and admin support unconditionally, say one day a week, since everyone knows it’s spare capacity anyway? And why don’t the likes of the Arts Council or Creative Scotland make it a condition of their funding that they do? This is, after all, the ostensible logic behind these big, purpose built arts hubs being built and supported in the first place: that they act as beacons for art going and art making in their vicinity. Again, they mostly don’t. This is especially cogent now, because to get Grants for the Arts funding, individual artists, Community Interest Companies and unincorporated arts groups are all now having to compete (unpaid, of course) not only with libraries and museums but also with huge commissioners or public galleries, all of whom have full-time staff.

At this point we started getting utopian and discussing the notion of artists just fucking it all off and simply seeking their validation and their connections with people outside of all these institutions. Cooperatives, mutuals, free love communes, etc. Actually we didn’t talk about free love communes, but I think we probably would have done if we’d been there longer.

Then we went back to misery a bit when we talked about unions and the remarkable fact that after many years of existence the Scottish Artists Union currently rejoices in having about a thousand members. I was a member when I lived in Scotland, and good for SAU, but that’s a shockingly low number of artists for a nation of 5 million people or so. Obviously they’re not all artists, but it’s still not a great number of members and therefore one major benefit of unionisation– collective bargaining– is hardly a factor. I likewise wish the newly formed artists’ union in England all the best in their endeavours, but it doesn’t bode well that they seem to be having so much trouble with recruitment. I can’t help thinking that old school unions have probably had their day anyway, because we need much more nimble, responsive and unignorable means of organising resistance and change if we really want it. Less Jeremy Corbyn, more Anonymous or Occupy.

SAVE £40 ON FRIEZE TICKETS

20 Apr

21.-ops.-Scrooge-McDuck.-Azizonomics

… every single year, guaranteed… BY NOT GOING.

I’m severely late on this one, because Frieze Art Fair [sic] was last October and at the time I was far too fucking busy touring Japan and having an amazing, inspiring time in the midst of the most staggering beauty to even think about paying £40 to be milked by a loathsome trade fair for oligarchs, blood money gold diggers and other moneyed Eurotrash, even if I’d been in London at the time. However, this is an excellent– and dare I say even Career Suicidesque– response rant by Morgan Quaintance to Frieze’s jaw-droppingly unironic and egregious discussion panel entitled Off Centre: Can Artists Still Afford to Live in London? During a ticketed fair where a person earning minimum wage would have to work for nearly six hours to afford the admission price, and putting your coat or bag in the cloakroom costs a fiver. Not to mention that most people who work in the arts already know the answer, which can be found in the thousands of artists and other creative people, and key workers like teachers, who have been forced to leave the capital to stand any chance of making ends meet.

This talk is also evidence of what I mentioned in a recent post with regard to artist livelihoods being a taboo and unfashionable subject when I started talking about it seven or eight years ago. People who ran art galleries or arts organisations were often absolutely baffled and speechless at any suggestion they talk about how money flows through the system– and particularly how it doesn’t often flow to artists in any significant quantities– but now even the likes of Frieze see benefits (undoubtedly self-serving ones, as Quaintance also points out) in talking about the subject, or at least being seen to talk about it.

It’s well documented that I despise Frieze magazine and their trade (not art) fair, both of which are festering sores on the face of genuine art and an affront to everything I hold dear, and I know I’m very well accompanied in that, but it’s nice to have a co-pilot who says things like this:

[The talk] tipped the uneasy balance between finance and art to a position that felt entirely more exploitative, offensive and grotesque. Put simply, the instrumentalisation and commodification of hardship took things a step too far.”

And:

“Is there something base about using the human fallout that comes from the pursuit of capital to excuse and make the pursuit of capital more attractive?”

McDuck

He also torpedoes the infuriating, traitorous and intellectually lazy response of many apologists for the toxic sea of Panama-flavoured money in which some directors of public galleries, commercial gallerists and artists float their rotten boats, the “all money is dirty” brigade who generally only say so because they never earned or received a penny in their lives that didn’t come from dodgy sources and at the cost of somebody else’s suffering, oppression or exploitation.

“… the relentless spread of alienating neoliberal practices throughout the capital are what makes this all difficult to stomach. But the fact that it is easy for others to swallow makes me think that there are, at present, two consciousnesses operating in the British art world: one that is happy to ignore the art world’s possible complicity with the wretched socio-cultural, economic and political state of things and another that finds it distressing, disturbing and debilitating to do so.”

Distressed, disturbed and debilitated here, in case you were still in any doubt.

Frieze Art Fair: the monetization of your misery?

ArtWorldDickheadsE_Hughes

OCCASIONALLY THE VOICES ARE RIGHT

16 Apr

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A wee update on this story about a woman who attacked a fellow visitor to Art Basel Miami Beach last December, while onlookers interpreted the whole thing as some kind of performance art. The attacker, Siyuan Zhao, has unsurprisingly been found to be suffering from a serious mental illness. Eventually coming back to a somewhat even keel through therapy and medication after randomly stabbing a stranger, trying to kill a therapy bird (whatever that is) and hearing voices that said “she needed to protect the event from the Middle Eastern terror group ISIS”, Zhao has agreed to “deport herself” back to China where her family will take care of her.

“She was very psychotic,” Dr. Ilan Melnick testified. He also said: “She felt ISIS was going to be at Art Basel to destroy the art.”

Dr. Melnick possibly slightly stating the obvious there, especially in conjunction with his second statement. Is it very wrong of me to wish that ISIS would attend Art Banal Miami Vice and destroy the art? I mean, why can’t they make themselves useful instead of murdering people and wallowing in all their adolescent, medieval emo shit about caliphates, jihad and whatnot?

ISIS are probably unnecessary, though, if anybody wants art destroyed. With all due respect to Ms. Zhao’s considerable though misguided enthusiasm for defending the exhibitions, the artists and galleries at Art Basel are doing quite a good job of destroying art already…

Art Basel knife wielder pleads guilty, must return to China

PIGGIES

8 Apr

monopoly man

When I and a few enlightened colleagues started talking about the art world and money in about 2009, hardly anybody was interested and we were very often asked why we bothered. Within a few years, nearly every agency and artist-facing organisation was talking about artists, art and money if they had any sense. The mainstream art magazines like Frieze still don’t talk about it very much except in a celebratory way, as if there’s nothing at all problematic about the whole high-end art scene, because their reason for being and their main income is from courting the (rich) hand that feeds or fists at its own whim.

Likewise, I have asserted for many years that the real story at the top end of the art world is not how bad, irrelevant and vapid most of the art and most of its suppliers are– don’t get me wrong, they are all of these things and we need to expose and talk about that– but instead the main issue is that the art world is inextricably tied up with the tax evasion, money laundering, international subversion of the rule of law, and a general lack of common human decency, all of which are impoverishing and holding back 99% of the world’s population. No rich person is unique, above the herd or entirely self-made, no matter how much they might like to think they are. They benefit from the physical and electronic infrastructure, education, labour, subsidy, policing, bureaucracy (and so on) provided in one way or another by every state in the world; in some ways, and in some countries in particular, rich people benefit from these things even more than an ordinary person. Rich art collectors, dealers and superstar artists are for the most part parasites on all of the aforementioned and upon publicly funded art institutions and galleries, not to mention the grass roots, unfunded artist initiatives that in turn feed into these institutions. And yet it’s still not enough. They want it all.

And so we come to the Mossack Fonseca leak, which can hardly have escaped anybody’s notice. Surprise! The documents are full of evidence about how the 1% use the buying and selling of art to dodge taxes, launder money and commit crime.

The founder of China Guardian, the world’s fourth largest auction house, is hiding money offshore along with many other members of the country’s political elite.

Russian oligarchs defrauding one another through buying and selling paintings.

No doubt there will be more and worse as the data is sifted and processed. This really feels like one of those points in history where there could be real reform or it could be heads on sticks time. In either case I don’t think we should leave the choice up to the 1% rich, because we already know perfectly well that their choice will be status quo and neither of the above.

Bonus venal, overprivileged twat caught with her hand in the till:

To avoid a full trial, the former managing director of the Centre Pompidou admits to misusing public funds after spending €40,000 on unnecessary taxi journeys. Interesting that the French slant on this is that she is a civil servant because she worked for a publicly funded institution. Absolutely fucking bang on: work for a publicly funded gallery? You are a civil servant, even if you’re not officially a civil servant. You work for the people. Remember that.

REPULSIVE

15 Mar
Bosch

“Young collectors cocktails”

At PULSE (sic… they always style it like that) Miami Beach 2016 this December, there will be a “private preview brunch”, followed later that day by “young collectors cocktails.” I know, I had an urge to vomit too. The poor grammar here suggests that the cocktails will be made from young collectors; while I do think it’s a good idea for the 1% to be pestled and pulverised I’m going to assume they mean cocktails for young collectors.

These young collectors will probably only be slightly richer than the exhibitors, because it costs a (non-refundable) $275 to apply, plus a $2000 deposit against your final charge of either $4960 for a small booth with three lights– woo!– or a medium booth with a crazy FOUR lights for $6,200. You do get your $2000 back if they don’t accept you, you lucky thing, though $2000 is probably nothing to anybody moving in these circles. “Drayage” is included, which is brilliant because there’s no need to have your staff equip the horses and harness them to the Pantechnicon.

Many purveyors of wall-based decoration will be there, but probably not a single person worthy to be called an artist. Horrific events like PULSEMiamibeach2016 are one of the reasons I have a GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG tag on this site.

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