Photo: Kira Björklund

The Fair Pay for Artists symposium in Ode, the central library of Helsinki, brought together a vast number of art professionals and decision-makers both in person and online.  

Fair Pay for Artists exhibition payment symposium was organised on the 24th of September 2021 in collaboration with Artists’ Association of Finland, the British umbrella organisation for visual arts, a-n the Artists Information Company, as well as European visual art organisation International Association of Art (IAA) Europe. The event was hosted by the head of communications of Frame Contemporary Art Finland, Laura Boxberg.

Over the past few years, the exhibition payment model, as well as other compensation practices have been widely discussed topics within culture politics in most European countries. Currently, the aim is to also get the exhibition payment model established in Finland. In the symposium, international guest speakers gave examples of fair compensation practices in visual arts, as well as presented exhibition payment models in different countries.

The symposium started with the welcoming words by Julie Lomax, CEO of a-n. She presented the work a-n has done over the years towards a British compensation model. Lomax underlined the importance of the theme at the present, when the art industry is still healing from the severe impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. In his opening speech Antti Kurvinen, Minister of Science and Culture, presented the preparatory work that has gone in to establishing the exhibition payment model in Finland.

The first speaker of the day was artist and chairman of Artists’ Association of Finland, Teemu Mäki. He presented the principles of the exhibition payment model as well as the compensation guidelines of the exhibition payment working group set by the Ministry of Education and Culture he had been a part of. He also went through artists general sources of income in Finland. Mäki presented means that could be used in the future to get a better compensation from not only by selling art, but by presenting it and getting it out to the public. Most of the art audience enjoy art by watching the works. In Mäki’s opinion, the biggest growth potential in increasing artists incomes, lies in wages and commissions for the artistic work.

”Exhibitions are not only shop windows or window displays of bought objects anymore.” -Teemu Mäki

Rune Peitersen, artist and co-founder of art organisation Platform BK, presented in his speech the exhibition payment model used in the Netherlands, Kuntenaarshonorarium. The model has proven to be successful for both artists and art institutions and it has been accepted widely into use. Peitersen told how the biggest challenges in preparing the model had been the definition of artistic work and value. In the end, the model had been stripped down to four elements determining the compensation; does the exhibition involve creating new art or modifying existing pieces, does the exhibition production involve other work, is there work related to events and compensation to use an art work owned by the artist.

A central tool in the model is a calculator, which can be found on the The calculator will show the extent of the compensation. The extent depends for example on how many artists are participating as well as the size of the exhibition venue.

The first speakers of the afternoon session were artist duo and sisters Jane and Louise Wilson. They work as professors in Newcastle University in the United Kingdom alongside their artistic practices. Having worked over three decades with video art, photography and sculptures, the Wilsons’ presented their work and several highly established pieces. They also explained the challenges and experiences working as professional artists. The Wilsons’ explained how they had to share all grants and scholarships when working as a twosome. However, they underlined that the payment models have improved over the years in many different countries and institutions.

The topic for the panel discussion in the afternoon was the establishment of the exhibition payment model in Finland, as well as the political process behind it. The participants of the discussion were Special Advisor in Arts Promotion Centre Finland Henri Terho, Senior Researcher in the Centre for Cultural Policy Cupore Sakarias Sokka and Member of Parliament and the Education and Culture Committee Hilkka Kemppi. The panel was moderated by Director of Artists’ Association of Finland, Annukka Vähäsöyrinki. The panel discussion created a vast insight on the several year long preparation process of the exhibition payment model.

MP Hilkka Kemppi was very pleased with the progress of the model, and responded positively to the suggestion by Henri Terho, that the payment model would also be extended to gallery exhibitions in the future. They discussed the need to improve funding for visual art as a whole and develop artists’ social security. Sakarias Sokka highligted how many Cupore reports show the lacking funding for visual arts and general issues within artists livelihoods.

”Artist fees are not intended as compensation for the labor or materials of making art but are the expected remuneration for an artist’s temporary transactional relationship with an institution to provide content.” -Richard Birkett

The day was wrapped up by curator and member of New York based artists’ organisation, Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.), Richard Birkett. He presented the work that W.A.G.E does, with the aim to recognise the unequality within the art field. In his comprehensive talk, Birkett also presented the certification created by W.A.G.E. that can be given to institutions and organisations who advance fair payments for artists. 96 institutions in 37 different cities around the United States have started using it. To this day, W.A.G.E.’s work has resulted in over 9 million dollar worth of payments for artists through various institutions. W.A.G.E. also provides practical tools for artists, such as definitions for different kinds of artistic work, model contracts and a payment calculator.

The symposium was continuation for IAA Europe’s previous work. In 2018 IAA Europe and its partners executed a symposium in Brussels called Exhibition Remuneration Right in Europe 2018.

Recording and presentations

How will artists get paid in the future? The rising importance of getting commercial income not only from selling art, but also from presenting art (link to the slides))
Teemu Mäki, Chairperson, The Artists’ Association of Finland

Kunstenaarshonorarium – the exhibition payment model in the Netherlands (link to the slides)
Rune Peitersen, Platform BK