From newspapers to social media, radio to the television, there’s no doubt that you’ll have heard the many challenges that small, independent businesses are currently facing. And with this in mind, never has there been a better time to support artists, galleries and creative businesses around the world. As we’re well aware, across the visual arts, biennales, exhibitions and art fairs are being cancelled or postponed, with galleries temporarily closing worldwide. And whilst we're yet to know the long-term effect this will have on the art market, undoubtedly this will be having a huge impact on the livelihood’s of independent artists around the world.
Globally, to offset some of the financial hit to creatives, there are initiatives such as the Arts Council England making a £160 million emergency fund available for theatres, festivals and museums, the US government created an aid package worth $307.5 million in support of the arts and cultural sector, Germany has committed €50 billion for small businesses, and Australia's Federal Government has made a staggering AU$130 billion Economic Stimulus Package available which will help to support artists and galleries. At the same time, smaller, but invaluable grass-roots projects are working round the clock.
Sadly, even if these funds return their financials to the status quo, this will not solve the inequality of income for independent artists. Well-documented across historical and contemporary examples, being an artist has long been tricky business. A number of recent reports had already highlighted the issue of low pay, often being significantly lower than the local minimum wage. For a society which values the creative industries like never before, these statistics can prove really shocking.
Supporting Artists in an Uncertain World
In The Guardian’s Paying Artists 2014 Report, it was revealed that nearly three-quarters of UK artists received 37% of the average UK salary, with only 66% of artists receiving the living wage of £10,000. The same is true in the US. Artnet has reported that “the myth of the starving artist is anything but a myth” with three-quarters of US artists making $10,000 or less per year from their art. These are the sobering facts behind the works that live on our walls and make us smile every day, with many artists relying on a secondary income to make ends meet.
On the positive side, few would choose to do anything else. Artist, Frances Bloomfield of Liberty Gallery says;
“When I first really confronted the scale of what was happening with COVID-19 I just stopped working and felt completely lost. All of my Spring shows had been cancelled and this has usually been my most profitable time. However, within a few days I got back in the studio and I am now trying hard to see this time as a creative challenge. Like most of the artists I know being an artist is a way of life… it’s not a choice, it’s who I am. If I stop making work, I stop being. Initially I felt that art was probably not that important right now, but people will always need art and perhaps in this new territory that we are entering people will need it even more."
View more of Frances’ illusionary 3D dream boxes here, including everywherenowhere 1 (above), which was due to be shown on the Liberty Gallery stand at our postponed Affordable Art Fair Hampstead.
Here at the Affordable Art Fair, supporting independent artists, and the galleries that represent them, has always been at the heart of what we do. Especially crucial to us is supporting living artists, rather than family estates. We couldn’t be prouder to have welcomed over 2.7 million people to our fairs over the last twenty years, who have taken home an incredible £398/€452/$507 million worth of art! And now, our online marketplace offers a way to support artists 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In light of the current crisis, we’ve committed to supporting our artists and gallerists as much as possible; highlighting the fantastic work they continue to do through our 12 Trending Galleries online exhibition.
During these difficult times, it’s crucial not to underestimate the need to support artists more than ever. If now isn’t the right time to invest, connect with a gallery or artist you’ve always had your eye on. A key part of collecting is getting to know curators, gallerists and artists - so take the first step in connecting on social media and you can look forward to meeting them in person at an upcoming fair. Alternatively, should you already be following your art-crush, why not like, comment on or share some of their posts to help them maintain motivation and reach new audiences.
For those who are considering investing, if you are able, take the plunge! It’s never been a better time to make that purchase you’ve been mulling over, supporting the art-ecosystem and brightening your home décor while you do so. With art and our surroundings scientifically linked to our own psychological wellbeing, you’ll be giving both yourself, the gallery and the artist a much-needed boost.
A gallerist takes an artwork to be wrapped at Affordable Art Fair Melbourne enjoys the Private View.
Featured art from first to last:
Sam Rad, Seperation, 2019, £295, acrylic, original, Byard Art.
Frances Bloomfield, everywherenowhere 1, 2020, mixed media, original, Liberty Gallery.
Mike Hall, Table Laid For Lunch 2018, £795, acrylic, original, London Contemporary Art.