A guide for institutions and foundations, that wish to provide better support for artists and curators.
This guide is written for art institutions, private and public foundations and other actors that wish to provide better working conditions for artists and curators, help them develop their practice and collaborate on new formats. How can they act if they wish to truly support artists when developing activities with them?
Take risk, actual risk. If an institution offers 100.000 for x number of artists and curators to run a project space for a year, it is not taking a risk. It is providing poor working conditions and outsourcing the risks to the applicants. True risk would be for the institution to properly finance the chosen initiative it is planning and provide proper working conditions, so artists and curators have the time and support to explore, fail and learn. True risk is making space for and experimenting with ideas, processes and projects, where you do not know the exact outcome and are open to unforeseen events. True risk is prioritizing wages for artists over production of content. True risk is deviating from the short cycle of content production and making space for long-term value creation for those who deliver that content.
More often than not, institutions come up with formats that are fully finished with no wiggle-room for change. If you as an institution wish to truly contribute to novel forms of artistic and curatorial practice, open up towards changing some of the fundamental aspects of the way you work. Developing new formats in an open dialogue with artists and curators, will enable more diversity on this parameter. For example, as an institution, you could employ an artist for a year, develop new formats in close collaboration and conduct experiments without knowing in advance what the outcome will be.
When you have arrived at a given format or project, be realistic about the amount of hours it will require of the artist/curators to complete the task and calculate the fee from this. If the exhibition venue neglects this, it may result in artists and curators having to put in a large number of free working hours as a consequence of the exhibition venue having prioritized quantity rather than being realistic about what the task requires. For non-art producers, it would be important to get a consultation from an art producer about this, in order to get a realistic estimate. In addition to art production, also include other tasks that may arise which are not directly related to art production.
Artists and curators in Denmark have no training in negotiating contracts and fees. It is a shared responsibility that we as a field cultivate this ability and work towards a culture where we discuss fees and contracts up against the activities they cover. This should happen before fundraising is commenced, given that once budgets are finalized, there is no going back. As an institution, make sure to open up this conversation. A meeting where you go over the details of the contract is a good place to start. Please see this page with recommendations for fees and contracts.
If you publish an open call or job posting, clearly state what the pay is and the exact services and deliveries that are expected of potential applicants. Consult with potential applicants or interest organizations, whether the fee is adequate in terms of the amount of work demanded by the planned activities. The more detailed, transparent and precise you can be, the better for the applicants and your eventual outcome. In UKK we never share open calls or job postings where this isn’t absolutely clear. We are always happy to give feedback on your open call or job posting. Contact us here.
Fundraising is where financial decisions are finalized , and certainly the concrete numbers allocated for certain roles, materials, and activities. If, for example, you are developing a program with a certain segment of artists in mind, be sure to consult with them or ideally the specific artists you wish to collaborate with before submitting applications. Foundations are increasingly aware of the problem with lack of pay for artists and curators, and are ready to enter into a dialogue about fees.
This list of recommendations is under development and will be edited on an ongoing basis. You are always welcome to contact us with ideas, questions or concerns.