Earlier this year, Arts Makers / Kāhui Ringatoi Aotearoa (AMA) released a set of guidelines for fair artist remuneration, the latest addition to the resources developed by the advocacy group and made available through their website, which include a checklist for contracts, tax and GST breakdowns, legal contacts, funding advice and a directory of specialist suppliers. Their announcement takes its cue from similar initiatives overseas such as those led by WAGE in the US and NAVA in Australia, and came in the wake of CNZ and New Zealand on Air’s review of independent creative professionals’ incomes, the median of which was found to be considerably lower than that of other waged or salaried earners: $37,000 compared to $61,800.
Exhibition projects are apt to swell to include artist talks, installation labour, workshop facilitation and other various outputs, so this resource aims to break down and cost this snowballing to ensure artists are paid, fairly, for all of their services to galleries and not only for the content they provide. One of the challenges of developing this kind of resource is devising a framework that is fair to artists but also recognises variables across institutions. A guideline of the different types of galleries and how they operate accompanies the docket, and the fee floors and ceilings have been developed in consultation with representatives from the Aotearoa Public Gallery Directors’ Network (APGDN) in order to recognise and account for these disparities.
The scarcity mindset runs deep within the arts, and many gallery spaces, no matter the size of their budgets or commissions, are feeling the pinch of funding cuts and economic downturn, so these guidelines are the tip of a large and nebulous problem when it comes to the industry’s equity and sustainability. Nonetheless, it marks an important shift towards greater transparency, financial literacy and valuing artistic work as work from which one should be able to make a comfortable living, as in any other industry.