campaigning to improve artists' remuneration and rights through a collective voice

Artists’ Rights – strengthening creative economies

We live in curious and difficult economic times and as artists, we share many problematic and contradictory issues. The objective of this project has been to use the Swedish MU Standard Agreement on costs and artists’ commission and exhibition remuneration as a model for similar contracts for visual artists in other countries. This is a starting point to then develop into a wider unified creative model.

This collaborative project has given us an outstanding opportunity to share ‘cross border’ experiences and begin to develop a best practice methodology. Fortunately, there is an existing agreement to use as a base for this project. Through the Swedish organisation’s representative, we have received invaluable help, not least in understanding administrative problems that might occur.

This thought of artists working together to develop their own ‘contract’ structures, alongside arts administrators, is a new and innovative way of working for many. An artist creates art, but is seldom used to negotiating. However, an artist that is able to negotiate with an organiser is a stronger, more independent artist. 

An artist is often in an isolated position and creative communities can find themselves disconnected to the wider business economy. Trade agreements, widely used in other industries, have often not been the practice within the art and design fields. We need a greater professional understanding of the worth of cultural investment and a genuine acceptance of shared values within the arts.

The manner in which the information was gathered in this project and the generosity of the group to openly work together has highlighted that this manner of collaboration can be very useful in sharing a wide variety of cultural issues – our regional differences and similarities, our priorities and methods of engagement, can reveal new and hidden ways in which we can all improve our working environments. 

This type of project directly links to other areas of investigation: 

  • methods to encourage artistic movement between countries
  • how to understand working conditions of artists through specific surveys
  • developing effective new methods of information distribution between communities
  • awareness and management of copyright and resale rights

We hope that this form of cross trade negotiation, with the inclusion of the artist voice, may be the first in a number of future European cultural projects. We believe that creating a combined core working agreement across an area of the sector is more powerful than each country working separately.

Article originally published in January 2015.

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