Johanna Bruckner

The art field as a multi-billion industry


Johanna Bruckner

I too, 25/05/2019

Kunsthaus Hamburg


The art field is now a more than 56 billion dollar industry, and is indivisible from the industry that surrounds and enables it. In the face of accelerated deregulation, culture increasingly serves to bring about economic development and art returns to life as an economic factor. But artistic value can also provide public experience extra to the market, and in so doing contribute importantly to cultural wealth. The term “Cultural wealth” is used by governments and cultural industries to describe the ameliorative benefits of the arts but has also a longer history in which wealth is understood not as a financial term but rather as one that names what is produced communally as a shared public asset. So, instead of normalizing the expectation of an artist’s free and underpaid labor, it is now incumbent to recognize the value of artists’ work as a public good and to support it as such. That means redefining the artist as a paid social-economic subject. Thus, cultural policy within the framework of the creative industries must reinvent itself (W.A.G.E). 


To recap some of our demands we raised during the panel’s first part that took place last year: Through post-studio practices, increasing mobilization, translocal working structures, and the artist‘s presence in the networks of ciruclation, logistics and research, artistic production requires other and new pots of money. I have recently been collaborating with WAGE, a New York-based activist organization, whose mission is to establish sustainable economic relationships between artists and the institutions that contract our labor, and to introduce mechanisms for self-regulation into the art field. The so called WAGE Certification, a tool of guidelines to be aquired by institutions according to which fees are to be paid, WAGE expects remuneration for an artist’s temporary transactional relationship with an institution and non-for-profit organisation. In order to elaborate this certificate to better account for the invisibly contracted labour, the one of freelance production, I elaborate on a model for public funders on the basis of which artist grants, scholarships and residencies would be calculated, based on the coverage of labor and living costs by international regulations. In order to elaborate this idea, I closer look at the conditions, under which a translation of WAGE instruments into European contexts could take place, as in the US arts funding comes primarily from private resources such as philantropy. In Europe art serves high culture, the creative economy, cultural diplomacy and social projects that benefit society (in term of cultural wealth as mentioned). A calculation instrument that supports the regulation of artistic production in the European context could, among others, embrace the following:

- scholarships and residencies are calculated depending on a city's available funds
- next to a top for exhibition fees, another top for socially-reflected projects is needed (cultural wealth, public money - society); these projects could work as a support system in order to set up new infrastructures in the art field themselves. Long-term relationships between certain stakeholders for example corporations or even companies or political inititiatves in society and the artist; the work’s payment would operate through emerging cooperations outside cultural funding. The artist operates as facilitator, while leaving the field in which it catalizes processes; back into the art field. Post-monetary forms of exchange, for example cryptofinance etc.
- Artist in committees / transparency of funds
- 10 to 20 per cent of artist proposals‘ budget should be fees
- Cancellation of all residencies which do not include artist fees or scholarships

The aim with setting up new instruments is to widen the matrix of regulating practices – in favour for planetary meshwork of assemblages, micropolitical strategies that support WAGE‘s self-catalyzing mechanism of regulating the field. These micropracitces, that could be the result of these shortly sketched mechanisms could create ever-new groupings and branch off into other possibilities. The herewith emerging temporalities could generate a discontinuous history and present of its own. Because it is our collective work – and its common value - that is something that we must also collectively enforce from within the field.