Artists Cultural policy Museums Sweden

Swedish artists say ‘Pay up’

Smaller state-run museums are failing to follow a rule that requires payment for exhibitions

Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, Sweden’s Minister of Culture and Sports from 2006-14 with Katarina Jönsson Norling, the head of the KRO (Swedish Artists’ Organisation). Photo: KRO

Sweden is one of the few countries where artists are meant to receive payment for exhibitions, thanks to a regulation introduced in 2009—but the rule has proven difficult to enforce. According to a survey conducted by the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis, around 60% of artists who showed their work in smaller state museums either failed to get paid or received less than the law dictates.

“Unfortunately I have to say that this does not come as a surprise to us. We are now working on getting the new government to distribute state aid only if an institution sticks to the rules”, Katarina Jönsson Norling, the head of the Swedish Artists’ Organisation KRO, told The Art Newspaper.

Known as the “MU avtal”, the scheme requires state-run institutions to pay artists when exhibiting their works. They also have to reimburse them for the time spent hanging works or being present at a press conference. However, so far the government has not meted out any penalties if a payment is not made.

How much an artist receives depends on a number of factors, such as whether they are involved in a solo or a group show and the size of the museum. According to the survey, which covered 95 Swedish museums, only the largest state-run institutions, including Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, paid all artists according to the rule. (Due to privacy laws, the agency could not disclose the names of the museums that failed to pay artists.) On average, artists received 28,000 Swedish kroner (€3,100) each per exhibition. In the smaller museums, only 40% of the artists got paid, on average receiving 24,000 kroner (€2,700).

When the regulation was introduced, artists hoped that non-state museums would voluntarily follow the payment scheme. While some did, the survey shows that only 25% of artists that exhibited at city-run or private museums received payment. KRO is now working to extend the rule to cover these institutions as well.

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18 Nov 14
18:18 CET


Payment for presenting your work is an amazing concept. In an overtly capitalist America, the notion would never get off the ground.

29 Oct 14
16:20 CET


In an ideal public system, issues such as these should be acknowledged and discussed openly. But they should also be solved by recognising the widely varying landscape that exists in arts funding and that any worthwhile debate about this issue, as I experienced in particular as curator, is absent in the UK, leading to a general climate of hypocrisy.

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