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Are Artists Rich? The value of artistic work

Workshop and Parliamentary Evening at the Portikus of the Badische Stahlwerke Kehl, 21 November 2012

Are Artists Rich’ focused on the value of artistic work in Europe. Modern societies need art as a field for experimentation, to ‘test’ and reflect on new, relevant questions and approaches away from current political logic and scientific discourses. But what role does art play in a society of shareholders, ‘users’, and occupy movements? Should art subordinate itself to the economic system as a ‘commodity’? What kind of art does society want and what is it willing to invest for the freedom and diversity of art?

Also, in the context of new forms of presentation and dissemination of visual art (interventionist practices, collaborative projects, alternative art spaces, non product-oriented work), the question of contemporary and sustainable art and cultural funding arises. What can cultural funding and legislation (copyright law) look like that take into account new contemporary art forms? Does the support of these artistic freedoms require new models?

The ‘unusual economy’ and the production conditions to which the artists are subject were discussed in relation to the necessary freedoms and opportunities offered by art. Why is the income of the majority of artists below average, even in countries where the conditions with respect to artist funding, social security, copyright, etc. are comparatively good? What structural particularities apply to the field of art? And what is the reason for the symbolic overvaluation with simultaneous economic undervaluation? What makes being an artist so attractive and prestigious, despite the objectively poor income prospects?

Representatives of national and European artists’ associations and of the umbrella organizations European Council of Artists (ECA) and International Association of Art (IAA) Europe, as well as independent artists’ groups and initiatives such as ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’ (London) and ‘Haben und Brauchen’ (Berlin), were invited.

Short lectures opened the first part of the event: a lecture by the Dutch artist and sociologist Hans Abbing introduced the subject of the special ‘economy of art’ and shed light on the value of art for a society yesterday, today, and in the future. Members of the ‘Precarious Workers Brigade,’ London talked about the real working conditions in culture and education and presented the activist and artistic approach to them.

Lectures were followed by a structured exchange of opinions and experiences of the participants from which key issues emergeed for the 2 work groups: 1. THINK-TANK (discussion / text), 2. AKTIVITY WORKSHOP (artistic implementation / action).

In the evening a summary of the results was presented to Members of the European Parliament.   

Also a handout, prepared by IGBK, was submitted, which includes guest contributions (e.g. by Hans Abbing and by the European umbrella organisations and initiatives) as well as a collection of positions on current topics related to contemporary working conditions of visual artists in Europe.
Doris Pack, Chairwoman of the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament took up the patronage of the evening.

Project leaders: annette hollywood and Moira Zoitl

The handout can be downloaded in English language here:

Videoimpressionen der Veranstaltung und vollständige Dokumentationen der Vorträge von Hans Abbing, der 'Precarious Workers Brigade' und 'Haben und Brauchen' finden Sie hier

Impressions - ARE ARTISTS RICH? 2012

The Exploitation of Visual Artists - Hans Abbing

Working Within the UK's Arts and Cultural Sector - Precarious Workers Brigade

To Have and to Need - Julia Lazarus