Increasingly, western society is becoming indifference towards art. We live in a time, where even people who consider themselves ‘art lovers’ negotiate the price of artworks below their material costs, not covering other overhead (like studio rent) or actually feed the artist! At the same time these very ‘art lovers’ spend massive sums on vacations, TVs, cars, etc… They wouldn’t dare tell their dentist ‘Hey, can I have your service for free? After all, I will tell all my friends how great you are. So it’s really a great deal for you. Think of it as free advertising!” Sadly, this is the best an artist can even hope for these days: most people don’t even go to shows. And then there are those who go to our shows, drink our wine, eat our cheese and then leave – believing that they just ‘supported the arts’ because they made an ‘effort’ to see you show!
When did art become such a drag? Since when is going to an exhibition ‘making an effort to support the arts’? What happened to the joy of seeing a beautiful or startling painting? What about our cultural heritage?
The last straw is the tragic fire in an Oakland studio and creative warehouse space, which took 36 lives.
I’m on strike! And I call on all other artists to join the strike!
In addition, I’m going to put together some ground-rules. Help me build and improve this manifesto. Here is my first basic draft:
The International Artist Manifesto
- I will never work/perform/show for free
- I will not give any of my artworks for free
- I will set fair and realistic prices, based on a calculation that will provide me with at least living/minimum wage (this one is complex so more about the calculation below)
- I will not agree to work/perform in unsuitable, inhumane or dangerous conditions
Fair Price Calculation
This is a work in progress – please chime in – here is just the first stab for visual artists:
- 12 months of materials costs (paints, canvasses, brushes, metals, etc…)
- 12 months studio rent
- 12 months of minimum wage at the hours you work
Divide this by the number of works you have created during this time.
You purchased $1000 of paints, boards, tools, etc…), your studio rent was $250 a month. In California minimum wage is $10 per hour, most artists don’t take vacations or make up for it at other times, so let’s say you only work 30hrs a week on average. That would be $300 per week, by 52 weeks.
Total is $19600
And let’s say you created 20 works that you could (in theory) sell.
So if you were able to see each and every piece you would need to charge $980 to earn even just your minimum wage – and that’s before you paid any taxes! But most of us sell only a percentage of the work we produce. So, if you typically sell 20% of your work, you would calculate 19600/4: meaning you should charge $4600 for each. At this price, you only make minimum wage at a very tight calculation. So to provide a range, you should also calculate the price if you were to earn according to your level of education, experience and success. You are also not employed but a business owner, i.e. you have risks and should pay yourself like other self-employed business owners. Most freelancers or business owners with a college degree and 10 years of professional experience earn around $100 per hour (in California). So:
Total is $160000
Divide that by the 4 pieces you’re likely to sell, and you’d have to charge $40000 for each. And that’s not being unreasonable, it’s just the higher end of your work, if you were to bill it like any other business would.
So the next time someone tries to haggle your artwork down to the few hundred bucks: tell them: GO FUCK YOURSELF! or more diplomatically: “As an artist, I am a professional who deserves a fair income. By your offer, you are telling me that you do not respect my work or my right to live, and you demonstrate no love for the arts, but rather a desire to exploit the arts paying artists not even a fraction of the legal minimum wage. Please reconsider your position with your next offer.“