2013 – 2014: Report Payment Guidelines for Visual Artists

In October, November, and December 2012 Visual Artists Ireland undertook a survey to look at the reality of artists being paid for work and exhibitions. In total 147 artists who are actively exhibiting completed the survey. The survey took into consideration exhibitions and work in Ireland both in publically funded not for profit spaces as well as the commercial sector.

In terms of exhibitions in the not for profit sector, this equated to 781 exhibition opportunities realised. We use this term as different artists may have appeared in the same exhibition. The survey asked artists to give details of the exhibition fee that they received from their top five shows in the year.

The initial results of the survey revealed that out of 580 exhibition opportunities covered in the survey, 79.66% provided no fee to the artist for their participation. Further figures indicated that production costs were not met in many cases, and in a large percentage (43.3%) of cases, artists were asked to either pay or contribute to the administration costs of their exhibitions.  77.8% of artists received no fee for education or outreach programmes. Of these 31.9% received a contribution towards travel expenses for these events.

The situation of artists being expected to exhibit and provide education and other support services for free is not a new one. However, to date it has been anecdotal. This survey revealed the endemic reality.

Case Studies

Artist 1:  Age group 55 – 64, with a job to subsidise their work as an artist.

–         Studio rent, heat, and electricity costs of between 250 and 299 Euro per month;

–         4 solo exhibitions and 6 group exhibition in 2011/1012;

–         Three of the solo exhibitions had no artist’s fee, and one provided 500 Euro;

–         Out of the 6 group exhibitions (6+ artists in show) one offered a fee of 700 Euro;

–         No production costs were paid;

–         No venue offered travel expenses, nor took into consideration the production time required to prepare for the exhibitions. They received an extra fee for one speaking engagement, but this also had to cover travel and subsistence expenses.

Exhibition Income: 1200 Euro for 2011/2012

— 0 —

Artist 2: Age Group 35 – 44, with a job to subsidise their work as an artist

–         Part time access to a studio, studio rent of between 100 and 149 Euro per month;

–         One solo exhibition and eight group exhibitions in 2011/1012;

–         The solo exhibition had a fee of 1000 Euro;

–         Out of the 8 group exhibitions one offered a fee of 200 Euro;

–         No production costs were paid. Some galleries covered the administration costs but some were paid for out of the artist’s own pocket;

–         One venue offered travel expenses. Other venues didn’t cover these costs. None took into consideration the production time required to prepare for the exhibitions. They received no extra fee for speaking engagements.

Exhibition Income: 1200 Euro for 2011/2012

— 0 —

Artist 3: Age Group 45 – 54, full time professional artist

–         Part time access to a studio, studio rent of approximately 50 Euro per month;

–         Three group exhibitions in 2011/1012;

–         They were not paid for any exhibition;

–         Some production costs were paid, and in all cases administration costs were covered;

–         They received an extra fee for speaking engagements and only one covered travel expenses.

Exhibition Income: 0 Euro for 2011/2012


In follow up, VAI undertook a series of consultations and conversations with the sector to find the cause for the non-payments. The following were the key responses:

  • Insufficient funding to pay the artist as well as everybody else if a full programme is needed.
    • when organisations receive funding that is less than requested, there is an impression that the expectation is still there for the originally applied for programme – “I applied for 9 exhibitions and got enough for 4, but I’m still expected to deliver 9”;
  • “If I don’t pay staff, facilities, and utilities, then we won’t open. I can’t afford to pay the artist as well”;
    • multi-disciplinary venues indicated that their board of directors or other funders expect that the visual arts is “cheap to deliver” and not worth the amount of investment that “other income making art forms” are given and are therefore “devalued”;
    • there have also been questions as to why a visual artist should be paid.
  • Nobody is being paid
    • Smaller organisations, new artist led initiatives may depend on volunteers in order to achieve their set goals. This means that there has to be a value judgment on behalf of the artist as to whether or not they wish to support this type of opportunity;
    • Working in this manner has become more and more prevalent with new spaces, but it is being used as a benchmark by larger organisations as they cut their budgets;
  • I can get other artists to work for nothing
    This response has seen an increase and is concentrated in non-visual arts specific organisations. There is a lack of knowledge of working with visual artists and how to programme, which is seen as either a necessity or an afterthought.
  • No scale of payments that can be referenced
    There are no published references. There was a move towards an EPR (Exhibition Payment Right) many years ago. This has fallen into abeyance and few can remember the exact terms, levels or who owned it. A specific comment from a multi-disciplinary venue was “when I work with theatre or film people they have payment rates that I can reference. Visual artists don’t have this and make it very difficult for me to budget.”
  • “We do it but you need to ask who we are paying…”
    We have found this answer on random occasions. This is especially the case when speaking to projects who may use guest curators or artistic directors who are paid a lump sum for the delivery of a set programme and who are responsible for artists’ payments out of this lump sum. The situation is that the artists are not always in receipt of payment, and the commissioner assumes that it is taking place.
  • “That is the way that it has always been done / explained to me…”
    We see this response both in established spaces, and in spaces that have managers who may be inexperienced with financial planning. This is their sense of normality, and either they are unable to consider other modes of planning through lack of experience, or are unwilling to consider change as the current model is something that “works for them.”

The Guidelines

As a direct result of these findings, and in consultation with artists, arts organisations and funding bodies, as well as key expert organisations internationally, the following guidelines were drawn up to enable venues and artists calculate equitable levels of payments, properly budget for their programmes and for the variety of work that professional artists undertake in not for profit spaces.

Visual Artists Ireland had undertaken research both inside and outside of Ireland to create this set of guidelines for payments for professional visual artists. The figures provided are an indicator of the level of payment. Organisations may provide slightly more or slightly less than the amount shown. What will be paid for and the level of fees should be made clear in initial correspondence; contracts; and any advertising that takes place. (see contracts)

The guidelines spreadsheet can be found on www.visualartists.ie and is structured as follows:

  1. The Artist
    In this section artists, or organisations, input details about the artist’s career and experience which will then indicate where the artist currently exists in terms of level of payments.
  2. The Organisations
    This section is broken into 3 main areas:

    1. Type of organisation based on total annual turnover;
    2. Career & Experience of the artist(s);
    3. Type of Exhibition Opportunity
      1. Solo Show;
      2. Group Show of less than 10 artists;
      3. Group Show of greater than 10 artists;
      4. Multi-venue exhibitions;
      5. Subset for work that is new;
      6. Subset for existing work that has already been shown.
  3. One-Off Festivals & Events
    It is understood that one-off festival and events, both visual arts specific and general, operate differently to those with a continued programme and presence in terms of media and professional profile. This section is broken into 3 main areas:

    1. Type of organisation based on total annual turnover;
    2. Career & Experience of the artist(s);
    3. Type of Exhibition Opportunity
      1. Solo Show;
      2. Group Show of less than 10 artists;
      3. Group Show of greater than 10 artists;
      4. Multi-venue exhibitions;
      5. Subset for work that is new;
      6. Subset for existing work that has already been shown.
  4. Open Submissions – paid and unpaid submissions:
    1. Type of organisation based on total annual turnover;
    2. Career & Experience of the artist(s);
    3. Type of Exhibition Opportunity
      1. Solo Show;
      2. Group Show of less than 10 artists;
      3. Group Show of greater than 10 artists;
      4. Multi-venue exhibitions.

Career & Experience of the artist: it is assumed in this form of opportunity that artists who apply are treated equally. It is up to the artist to decide if somebody of their experience will apply to be part of the event.

  1. Other fees
    This section covers work other than exhibition fees. These include:

    1. Production Costs
      Materials and labour to be recharged at cost to venue;
    2. Installation fees
      where the artists is required by the venue to be present for installation;
    3. Project Preparation
      projects that are commissioned or that are site specific;
    4. Project Planning & Meetings
      projects that involve extensive meetings and planning sessions with commissioners and specialists, such as but not exclusive to public art commissions and large scale exhibitions;
    5. Mileage
      this allowance is taken directly from the published civil service rates;
    6. Artist’s Talks;
    7. Artist’s Workshops;
    8. Selection Panels;
    9. Interview Panels;
    10. Public Art Commission Artist Fees
      this is based on a percentage of the overall budget and is calculated on the basis for how much input and work is involved;
    11. Artists as Curators
      this is based on a percentage of the overall budget and is calculated on the basis for how much input and work is involved. The lower rate is for artists who are simply selecting work, moving progressively to a higher rate as artists may become involved in contract negotiations, shipping arrangements, installation design and support, media management etc;
    12. One off “Movie Night” screenings of moving image or “playing” of pre-recorded sound works – based on MPLC fees for 1 -200 Audience;
    13. Copyright Fees
      to cover continued use of artist copyright materials outside the run of an exhibition or event. This is based on the existing fees covered by IVARO for catalogues; newspapers/magazines; merchandising; and internet.

The guidelines are contained in an excel spreadsheet – Artists Payment Rates 0.0 September 2013


How to Use the Guidelines

The Guidelines are a three step process. It is important to follow each stage in sequence to build the correct level of fees.

There are three main tables (tabs in the spreadsheet)

Guidelines Structure

  1. The Artist
    This will calculate the level of experience of the artist and will be used to ascertain the level of payments in the other sections;
  2. The Organisation or Type of Event (One Off Festival or Event or Open Submissions)
    This section will indicate the payment levels for artist exhibition fees;
  3. Other Fees – e.g. production costs, workshops, planning, talks, etc
    This section will indicate the payment levels for other work that artists may undertake as part of exhibiting or working with venues or commissioners.

Adding the results of Step 2 and Step 3 together will show the potential total payment due for work undertaken. The following is a step by step guide on how to apply this in the spreadsheet.

Step 1 – The Artist

The first step is to ascertain where on the experience scale you, or the artist(s) that you will work with, are placed.

Enter the number of One-person shows and the number of Group [Q1 & Q2] shows that you, or the artist, has exhibited in within publically funded not for profit spaces.

Follow the list down, and answer Yes or No to Questions 3,4,5,6,7,8. At the bottom of that column you will see a number that has been calculated based on your answers. You can then check what “Category” you, or the artist, comes under.

Example: For an artist working for 6 years with 5 Group Exhibitions, 2 Solo Shows, Work has been purchased by the OPW, and they are tax registered, they would fill out the form as follows.

Guidelines - The Artist

Their score of 19 indicates that they are a Category 1 artist.

Step 2 – The Event or Organisation

The next step is to find out the fees due based on the type of exhibition or work required, whether or not the artwork has been seen before or if it is new, and also the turnover of the organisation.

Scroll down the spreadsheet to see find the type of exhibition opportunities.

On the top row of each you will see the bands for the turnover of the organisation. This is the annual turnover of the overall organisation and not just what is contributed to the visual arts programme. Next you will see on the right hand column the types of exhibition: Solo; Group with less than ten artists; Group with greater than ten artists. Under each of these you will see each category of artist.  Select the category that was calculated on The Artist calculator and check along the row to the guideline amount. Also note that if the show is traveling to various venues that each venue contributes an artist’s fee as a percentage of the original fee.`

Example 1:

For a Category 2 artist with a solo exhibition of new work in a venue that has a turnover of 275,000 the exhibition fee will be somewhere around €1133.00 before.

Exhibition Fees

Guidelines Fees 1


One Off Festivals & Non-Visual Art Events

Example 2

For a Category 2 artist asked to show work as one of 10 individual artists at a music festival that has a turnover of 375,000 the exhibition fee will be somewhere between €1,360.00 and €2,720.00.

Guidelines Fees 2

Open Submissions

Example 3

For an artist showing work in an open submission showr of 185,000 the exhibition fee will be somewhere between €225 and €376.

Guidelines Fees 3


It is important to take into consideration that venues may offer additional financial and non-financial benefits such as purchase of work, studio residency, per diems. These are outside of the other fees that will be calculated in Step 3. It is up to the artist and the venue or event to agree on a value for these and whether or not they will be taken into consideration as part of the artist fee.

Step 3 – Other Fees

The next stage of the process is to look at other work that will be undertaken as part of the opportunity.  Check the table (tab in the spreadsheet) Other Fees and go down through each item to see if the service is required for the type of work that the opportunity entails.  Each of these has been explained above.

Other Fees – SAMPLE ONLY

Guidelines - Other Fees


Further Reading:

The Visual Artists Ireland websites [https://visualartists.ie and http://www.visualartists-ni.org] contain extensive articles and how to guides that are useful in planning and ensuring best practice. Here you will find information guides on topics such as Exhibiting with Galleries, Preparing Proposals, Tax and Self Employment, Copyright and much more. Text and articles are spread across 4 main areas:

Developmental Tools:
This section provides advice and guidance on cultivating the necessary skills and strategies to survive and develop as an artist:
Budgeting and Financing; Common Room Talks: Temple Bar Gallery & Studios and Fire Station Artists’ Studios; Making Sales: Video and New Media Artworks; Managing My Work: Video and New Media Artworks; Negotiation Skills Workshop; Organising and Managing Projects; Preparing Proposals; Presenting Yourself; The Science and Art of Pricing and Costing Your Work; Working with What You’ve Got

Legal / Technical Guides:
This section provides everything an artist might need to know on the more technical and legal issues affecting their profession
A Practical Guide to Setting Up Studio Space; Tax and Self-Employment; Art Handling; Contracts; Copyright & Legacy Planning; Copyright and the Visual Artist; Copyright Principles for Visual Artists; Documenting Your Work; Handling Disputes;  Health and Safety in the Studio; Importing and Exporting Your Work; Pensions for Artists; Tax and Self-Employment; VAT and Artists; Visual Artists and The Law

Two other sections Practical Listings and Professional Pathways offer practical information covering such areas as galleries, studios, networks, arts officers, material suppliers, service suppliers funding sources, colleges, training, residencies, international resources, publications etc as well as an overview of the different approaches to practicing as a professional artist.

A PDF version of this document is available by clicking here.
The guidelines are contained in an excel spreadsheet –Artists-Payment-Rates-0.0-September-2013


We are grateful to artists, organisations, and our international partners, including CARFAC (Canada); NAVA (Australia); and other fellow members of the International Association of Artists for their input and openness in helping us create this comprehensive information. We would like to acknowledge Geneva Vogelheim of Berkeley College for her dedicated assistance with our research.

In particular we are grateful to the following venues: 126, Galway; The Crawford Gallery, Cork; EVA, Limerick; Highlanes, Drogheda; IMMA, Dublin; Solstice, Navan; Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, Dublin; and The Limerick City Arts Office for their honest and open conversations  and for the very valuable insight and input received.

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