This week artist and curator Gaynor O’Flynn reports back from the Venice Biennale and argues that it’s time for a fair trade policy for artists. As ever you can add your thoughts using the thread below.
After many years of saving myself for I do not know who or what, I finally lost my Venice virginity. But the parties, prosecco & pavilions can leave you feeling more like a prostitute than a blushing bride.
The Biennale is not for the new and emerging but the Art Establishment with a capital A and E. The heart is the Giardini where the Biennale began and where the nation state ethos is at its strongest. Backed by public money, the pavilions focus on one artist superstar per nation. In art as in banking the one to 99 percent rule prevails.
But in reality Venice Biennale is actually a post colonial mash-up of nationalities, language and ethnicities reflecting modern mass migration and the real way we now live our lives.
Art flies on the wings of the most genuinely open market in the world, a totally unregulated commodity exchange. The oligarchs, sheiks and collectors are in a conspiracy with the auction houses, curators and galleries, a testament to the power of the human mind and belief to create “wealth.”
The lines of super yachts moored outside the Giardini are reminders of a parallel universe where money and power dictate what is good art – i.e. collectible art, valuable art, investment art.
But back on planet eternally emerging, the reality is the national median wage of artists in the UK is less than £10,000 a year; less than half of the national wage. The creative industries amek up 7.3 per cent of the economy, growing at five per cent per year, almost twice the rate of the rest of the economy. Our creativity also impacts the economy is so many indirect ways. Art attracts tech start-ups, tourists, financiers, scientists and academics to visit, live and invest. Art is a power for social change.
The sheer volume of art at the Venice Biennale is testament to that but the fame and fortune route it supports is outdated. Aspiring to become the next Yoko Ono, Damien Hirst or Jeremy Deller is simply not sustainable for the majority. As artists we need to become more aware of the importance of our creativity and the power of our own work, its value and contribution to society.
We need a concept of fair trade for artists.