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via Frieze:

Unhappy Birthday, by Dan Fox

Tate – hardly a stranger to controversy – has this week come under attack from two artist groups, their criticisms centered around Tate Modern’s tenth anniversary celebration No Soul for Sale, which was held over the weekend of 14–16 May.

Making A Living, an anonymous organisation describing itself as ‘a discussion group of arts professionals currently active across the UK’, issued an open letter to the Tate challenging the museum’s treatment of artists during the ‘No Soul for Sale’ event.

The group write: ‘It has come to our attention that many participants are not being paid by Tate Modern for their efforts. In fact, most are self-funding their activities throughout the weekend. Tate describes this situation as a “spirit of reciprocal generosity between Tate and the contributors”. But at what point does expected generosity become a form of institutional exploitation? Once it becomes endemic within a large publicly funded art space?’

Arguing that ‘it is complacent for Tate to believe that their position is comparable to ground level arts activity’ and that it is ‘disingenuous’ for the museum to claim that this ‘spirit of reciprocal generosity’ is ‘somehow altruistic or philanthropic’, Making A Living go on to accuse Tate of not having paid artists ‘for some exhibitions, workshops and events, including last year’s Tate Triennial’, although no specific details are given in the letter.

They end their letter by calling on Tate ‘to make public its policy in regard to artists’ fees’.

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Art today has become an extreme exacerbation of twentieth-century attention economics, where the artist’s standing in the reputational economy is determined by his or her coefficient of specific visibility. Artworks and their authors are no less “branded” than other commodities; yet they are consumed for their uniqueness. Today, Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, etc. artists are highly capitalised in the global market. Difference is integral to marketing tactics, some use it whilst others are exploited by it. Their differentiated ethnological artefacts – of reverie and worship – bolster the broader art-belief system.

See the excellent article, ‘Reinvesting Surplus Attention in Plausible Artworlds‘, on North, East, West, South (NEWS).

July 2020