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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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There are certain sectors of the art world that crave a useful social role for art. Others see art as an activity making important contributions to intellectual discourse. Many look to art for pleasure. And then there are those who appreciate all of this seriousness, but crave the trappings of the entertainment industry too – fame, power, money, glamour, hierarchies, cultural parochialism. One year the art world is interested in this, the next year it’s interested in that. It wants to party, it wants to be scholarly. Markets go up, markets go down. At the same time as the Serpentine Gallery is showing Gustav Metzger, people are posing for photographs licking a giant chocolate facsimile of a Jeff Koons sculpture and throwing themselves on giant mounds of peanuts at the gala opening of PERFORMA 09. America elects a mildly progressive president and suddenly people scream ‘socialism’ as if the year is 1954 and Senator McCarthy is on the warpath. Everything changes and nothing changes.

Dan Fox in Frieze, January-February 2010. Full article here.

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