NAVA recommends new charter of artist fees

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Gina Fairley

From solo exhibitions to museum shows and public art commissions, NAVA has drafted a new charter of fees for artists and arts workers, and is inviting comment.
NAVA recommends new charter of artist fees

Image courtesy NAVA's #FairPayForArtists campaign. Image supplied.

Last week the National Association for Visual Artists (NAVA) released its new recommendations for standard pay and wages, hooking the campaign on the quintessential Aussie saying 'a fair go'.

The peak visual arts organisation last published a charter of recommended fees in 2017. It noted that the ‘scales of fees and wages for public art, special purpose commissioning, loan fees and arts workers’ salaries initially set out in this Code [of Practice] in the 2004 edition have had an annual CPI increase of 3% applied.


‘This has then been reviewed against publicly advertised rates to establish the benchmark rates for these areas,’ outlined NAVA.

The new draft Pay Standards for Artists and Arts Workers pushes that forward to 2019. It has been developed as part of NAVA’s major revision of an industry Code of Practice, which dates back to 2001.

The new schedule of fees include payments for the exhibition or loan of work, for the presentation of workshops, for speaking or writing, for research and development, as well as for consultation such as being asked to join a committee.

NAVA Executive Director Esther Anatolitis said: ‘We want to hear from artists and organisations. It's important that we get this right.’

‘As an artist, you should be able to negotiate with confidence on the basis of fees that are fair, knowing that they’re industry best practice across Australia, validated by your peers.’ 

NAVA is inviting feedback from artists and the sector on the draft new pay standards until 30 September 2019.

Research shows dismal growth in incomes

The issue of declining artist incomes has been on the table for some time now.

The past three Throsby reports for the Australia Council – Making Art Work (2017), Do You Really Expect to Get Paid? (2010), and Don’t Give Up Your Day Job (2003) – show that artist incomes remain low and, worse, are not growing to reflect inflating costs of living.

‘On the latest figures, artists are earning 16% less than in 2000-01 and 19% less than in 2007-08 from their creative work alone,' said NAVA. 'As for average income from all sources, it’s been static: $48,400 on the latest figures compared to $48,600 in 2000-01.’

The case for a rigorously reviewed national Standard of Fees for artists, arts workers and creatives was clearly needed.

Accessed via the NAVA website, the current list of fees is the most referenced resource that that peak organisation offers, demonstrating a high demand among artists to know their rights when contracting work in the visual arts.

Crunching the numbers on this new draft

NAVA has created a simple scaled chart that slides commensurately with the scale of the organisation and the number of artists in a group show. No superannuation is indicated these rates.

The fee for the loan of up to three months of an existing work by an individual artist for a solo exhibition to an  organisation with an annual budget of less than $750,000, would be $1,500. For an organisation operating at $2-5 million per annum, the fee increases to $5000.

These rates slide to $2500 and $10,000 retrospectively for the creation of new work developed for an exhibition which will not be acquired by the commissioning organisation. The rates include general administration, preparation, installation and a set number of meetings or site visits to be negotiated depending on the nature of the project

Table courtesy NAVA

With professional fees and consultation, NAVA said that artists should be charging at lowest $60 per hour for administration of shipping and installation, and $65 per hour for consultation.

NAVA adds: ‘For working on site for under two hours the hourly rate should be at least $100 to account for travel time. Travel costs of more than $20 should be reimbursed.’ 

The document also outlines recommendations for research and development, such as time spent on residency and for purposes of applying for grants. The recommendation is $27 per hour for early career escalating to $49 per hour for an established professional artist.

There are suggested rates for travel and per diems, which is also helpful for grant application budgets.

NAVA said that if these rates feel excessive to galleries then ‘compare what the artist is being paid for a week’s worth of full-time work to your own wage.’

Completing the list of revised fees are also recommendations for public art, speaking and teaching rates, judging, writing and editing. There are also standard guidelines for professional art works, including fees for photographers, curators, conservators, installers, life models and exhibition designers, right up to recommended rates for CEOs and organisation managers.

To view the full list of views, and voice your feedback.

How fair is a fair go?

What NAVA has deemed a 'fair go' for artists has repercussions across the sector, adding pressure to already strained small to medium organisations to deliver programs and exhibitions on less. While these organisations recognise that artists deserve a respectable level of income, escalating it beyond a workable model for smaller institutions can create tensions.

Penelope Benton, NAVA's General Manager, writes: ‘While the Code currently sets base minimum standards, and states that better resourced public galleries should pay more than the minimum, feedback collected between 2015 and 2019 shows that some medium and large organisations are paying the same fees as a small regional gallery with an operating budget of $358,000. 

‘In all of our roundtable consultations, it was unanimous that the Code needs to be clearer that medium and large organisations should not be paying the same level of fees as small organisations,’ continued Benton.

A number of public galleries and exhibition tour agencies have expressed concern to ArtsHub over the lack of consultation and the negative impact this change would have on public galleries Australia wide, especially at a regional level, where such fees will dramatically limit the shows that they will be able to mount.

ArtsHub is currently in conversation with a number of galleries and touring agencies, and will be reporting on the sector’s response.

For Anatolitis the link between the sector's evolution should also be reflected in fees. Anatolitis write on NAVA's website: ‘At the small-to-medium end of the art world, the growing sophistication of the arts industry has created more and varied jobs for arts workers than ever before – roles that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago – offering specialist support for professional development, curation, presentation, public programming, marketing, risk management, and so on. And yet, among all this growth, there has been no net change for the viability of artists’ careers.’

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
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