Last weekend I was thrilled to make it to The Other Art Fair, at The Cutaway, Barangaroo, Sydney.
The Cutaway is an amazing venue. Nestled under a man-made hill at the botanical gardens, it offers space and ambiance and is a wonderful addition to the bustling centre that Barangaroo is becoming. The event was very well done, with a wonderful range of artists, even including tattoos and light installations.
The range of art and artists was vast, but they all had one thing in common: funding challenges. Many artists spoke to me about the challenges associated with presenting themselves at such an event: the registration fee, the travel fee, and the organisers skimming a percentage of sales made at the event. Other more practical challenges were evident: some works are so fragile they can’t easily be shipped, so the artist offers a roll-up re-print option (sadly, with a lower price tag).
I was interested to learn about an art ‘credit’ organisation called ArtMoney. It’s a way for shoppers to buy works of art, but break the payments up over a number of months. I thought it was a cool and innovative way to make art more accessible to more people. Some of the artists I spoke to mentioned that ArtMoney takes a cut of the sale out of the sale price (we get it, ya gotta run a business!) – but their frustration lied in the layers and layers of expenses associated with producing, selling and representing themselves and their art: in this case: art production, show application/registration fee, transport, venue commission, and credit company commission, each taking a small chunk out of the sale price, and (in my personal opinion), likely to be driving art prices up.
The standard response to “so, how are you funded?” ranged from giggling to outright hysterics. Most of the artists I spoke to either held down full time jobs or were lucky enough to be on a well funded retirement. I dream of a day where there are a multitude of bona fide answers to this question, that don’t start with laughter. I don’t think there is (or should be) a single answer to it. I am in support of grants, fundraising, EOFY tax deductions, incentive schemes and more, not just to support the creation of new art, but to keep art more affordable. It’s no wonder that a single painting costs a month’s wages: the artist’s entire livelihood might be hanging on that sale. We should all have half a dozen answers to the question of how we’re funded not just to scoop together as much funding as we can, but also to safe-guard ourselves against the loss of any single one of them and keep prices down. If AP can be a slice of that answer, I will feel like we have made a positive contribution to the arts funding space.