Artists Unite! (for the love of God, please unite already)
Over at Artworld Salon, Ossian Ward has summarized the controversy over the Tate's rendition of the arts festival "No Soul For Sale" (which first took place at the X-Initiative). Ossian writes:
For its tenth birthday weekend just gone, Tate Modern staged No Soul For Sale, a non-profit ‘Festival of Independents’, bringing 70 artists’ collectives, publishers and non-commercial spaces from all over the world to fill its Turbine Hall. Well, perhaps ‘inviting’ would be a more accurate word to use, rather than ‘bringing’, as each participant had to pay their own way, with resourceful galleries doing last minute fundraising events and even garage sales to afford their flights to London from as far and wide as Beijing, Rio and Melbourne. A necessarily scrappy and messy affair ensued, with many No Soul For Salers showing only what they’d been able to squeeze through hand luggage or the symbolically empty packages they’d sent ahead of themselves.There's some commentary over there that I encourage you to read. But this issue (one explored at #class) brings out the business owner in me like nothing else. The notion that offers of free space are somehow taking advantage of artists is an insult to those venues, in my opinion. But I've gone into excruciating detail about the costs of running a space that exhibits art before...today I'd like to rant about the other aspect of this issue. In essence, despite my personal feelings on whether artists and organizations should be paid for such opportunities to reach a wider audience, I have to say AGAIN, that merely bellyaching about it WON'T change it. On AWS I wrote a comment that I want to present here as well:
This perceived lack of financial support drew fire from an anonymous British group of artists and arts professionals, calling themselves Making A Living. In an open letter to Tate, widely emailed and posted online, they took umbrage with No Soul For Sale’s ‘romantic connotations of the soulful artist, who makes art from inner necessity without thought of recompense’ as well as the concomitant expectation that ‘we should expect to work for free and that it is acceptable to forego the right to be paid for our labour.’
The groups were invited, they understood there was no budget, and they agreed to participate. If that’s not acceptable, then they should have declined.The first time artists unite and say NO to such circumstances (and you'll have to unite, because if you don't and some other scabby artists seize the opportunity instead, you're essentially screwed twice), then and only then will anything change. So freaking unite already. Or stop whining...it's annoying and entirely ineffective.
Indeed, had no one agreed to participate under those circumstances, then the Tate might have had to reconsider (hint, hint) either canceling the event or coughing up some cash, depending on how important the event was to the Tate and how embarrassing it would have been to have no one good take them up on the offer…but under these exact circumstances, I reject the notion that the Tate took advantage of anyone. Artists and artist groups who want to change the system have to take a stand…not merely take what they can get, moan about it later, and expect anyone to take them seriously.