[GENEVA] Powerful and inspiring initiative for the remuneration of artists


La Mobilisation des artistes* à Genève (Artists Mobilisation in Geneva) invites every art worker and art supporter to sign the


*visual artists, performers, curators, critics, researchers

We make the following observations:

  • In Geneva most art spaces, institutions and projects involving artists* either do not, or do not sufficiently, remunerate the work of the artists* they invite. 
  • Art spaces, institutions and artistic projects in Geneva are mainly dependent on public funding for their activities. 
  • There is no specific remuneration scale and collective agreement governing the work of artists* in Switzerland, nor any union representing their interests.

We are requesting a new set of policies be implemented by city, cantonal and municipal authorities in order to require art spaces, institutions and cultural workers in Geneva to pay artists*.

These policies should be included:

  • in the next funding conventions signed by art institutions1 in Geneva with the City, the Canton and the Municipalities, 
  • in the terms and conditions for the allocation of a grant for an annual programme of an artspace2 , a festival3 , presenting artistic projects, or a contemporary art project allocated to individuals or associative structures, 
  • in the by-laws of the museums and art centres4 operated by the cultural services of the City, the Canton and the Municipalities.

They should include new terms stating that:

  • the art space, institution or recipient of the support must remunerate the invited artists* an amount corresponding to the reality of the work carried out, in consultation with the artist, with a contract, according to a scale5 and in compliance with the laws and regulations for insurance contributions and social allowances, 
  • a separate entry for artist fees must clearly appear in the operating budgets and accounts of the art space, the subsidised institution or the recipient of the support, under a separate line from production costs and relating to the overall budget to allow verification. So without artist fees, there is no funding.

Lastly, we would like that artists participating in the annual exhibition Bourses de la Ville de Genève at Centre d’art contemporain receive, from the next iteration on, a remuneration as well as a production budget for the realisation of the works presented.

Join us and participate in the debate by 
Newsletter subscription and questions: 

1. Centre d’art contemporain, Centre d’édition contemporaine, Centre pour la photographie, Halle Nord, Mamco. 
2. Andata Ritorno, Forde, Villa Dutoit, etc. 
3. Antigel, La Bâtie, Les Créatives, Électron, GIFF, Mapping Festival, etc. 
4. Le Commun, Ferme de la Chapelle, Médiathèque du FMAC, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Musée Rath, Villa Bernasconi. 
5. As the establishment of a scale is a process involving many stakeholders and specific to each context, we would like to stress the importance of creating a remuneration system. However, the scale used should take into account the economic realities of the most vulnerable structures to ensure that they are not prejudiced. 


Visual arts are created by artists*. Without artists*, there is no art, nor art spaces and institutions. Currently in Geneva, the remuneration of artists* is rarely included in the budget of exhibitions or projects. In too many instances, artists* are either not paid, or are insufficiently paid, by institutions and organizers of artistic projects. This situation is based on the premise that the exhibition increases the visibility and the surplus value of the artists* who will be remunerated later on by the sale of their works. There is no guarantee that this will be the case. Indeed, only a handful have the opportunity to make a living from this activity. And according to the 2018 international study by The Creative Commons, only 12% of respondents said that gallery sales contributed to supporting their practices and themselves6 . Many artistic practices are not considered by the art market. Similarly, the market does not well reflect diversity, as it tends to promote dominant postures. Thus women and other oppressed groups (non-white people, trans* and non-binary people, people with disabilities, etc.) are under-represented and this has an overall impact on the state of art. Institutions are, in fact, dependent on this economy by refraining from paying artists*, and this dependency support systems of oppression and exclusion. 


When artists are invited to present one or several works as part of a group or solo exhibition or for an event, they must provide, in addition to the conception and production of the works, a series of services for the benefit of the institution. This is a specific and often substantial work. There are many tasks to carry out for each project: many email exchanges, interviews and appointments, site visits, coordinations of production and transport, writing texts for communication and education, installation and deinstallation on site often over several days, follow-up of documentation, meetings with the press and visitors, administration, accounting, and sometimes also the production of a publication. Throughout this process, the artist* receives, in most cases, no remuneration, as opposed to the employees of the institution (except in the case of certain interns and volunteer workers). We believe that art spaces, institutions and initiators of artistic projects must remunerate all artists* working for them and for any form of participation in their program.


Recent studies indicate that about half of artists in Switzerland earn less than CHF 10,000 per year from their artistic practice, and only about a quarter earn more than CHF 24,000. Only 1% of artists in Switzerland earn more than CHF 100,000 per year and about 20% can make a living from their artistic activities7 . This reality is particularly striking given that this country has one of the highest cultural budgets in the world. The dysfunctional economy of art creates great disparities in Switzerland. It does not allow the majority of artists* to meet their basic needs such as food, housing and health care. In Switzerland, there is currently no status for artists*, nor salary scale, nor collective agreement adapted to their work. This lack creates many situations of precariousness, because the social security allowances provided in Switzerland (AVS/AI, unemployment insurance, loss of earnings benefits) are often out of reach.


As a result of various initiatives, this issue is now gaining more and more attention. The Geneva newspaper Le Courrier informed the writers of this letter that the most read article in 2017 on lecourrier.ch across all categories is the article Faut-il payer les artistes? (Should we pay artists?) (Emmanuelle Fournier-Lorentz, August 25, 2017). Samuel Schellenberg’s most recent survey #PaieTon Artist (#PayYourArtist) (March 28, 2018) is the 4th most read article on their website in 2018. We learn that things are starting to move. Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, considers this issue important and urgent and defines it as a priority. In Geneva, the Centre d’art contemporain, Forde and Zabriskie Point have changed their policy and now pay artists* with whom they work. But the fees are still symbolic and do not correspond to the time devoted or the work provided. These work relationships are in most cases not formalised through contracts so the artists* cannot defend themselves. As well, they are not temporarily hired by the institution so their social insurance contributions are not paid if they do not have a freelance status. Furthermore, if the direction of these art spaces and institutions happens to change, there is no guarantee that the remuneration of artists* will be maintained. 


Recently, the Mondriaan Fonds in the Netherlands, a public fund supporting cultural projects, akin to Pro Helvetia in Switzerland, changed its funding strategy by introducing a new policy that requires art spaces and applicants to pay artists. It is now clearly stated in their terms and conditions for the allocation of a grant that, if an artist is involved in a project, the art space, institution or recipient of the support must pay the artist an amount corresponding to the work that has been carried out. Furthermore, this remuneration must appear in the budgets and accounts of the institution or project. So without artist fees, there is no funding. In the United States there is also W.A.G.E. (www.wageforwork.com), an initiative which has set up a certification system for non-profit art institutions that commit to pay a fee for artists according to a fee calculator they’ve established. In Canada, CARFAC, an association defending the economic and legal rights of artists, has for a long time regulated artistic work through remuneration scales and template contracts. Let us be inspired by these innovative initiatives! Art spaces and institutions in Geneva are mainly dependent on public funding for their activities. Therefore, including new guidelines governing the work of artists* in funding conventions and by-laws would be the most effective way to ensure that these practices change in a permanent way.


The City of Geneva, through the exhibition Bourses at the Centre d’art contemporain awarding each year three art prices, declares to be supporting young Geneva-based artists. However, the selected artists do not receive any remuneration and must pay out of their own pocket for the production of their works for this exhibition. Some artists cannot or do not wish to participate due to lack of financial resources for their production or to lack of time, unable to work for free. This also creates disparities in the quality of the projects presented, as the participants do not have the same available financial possibilities. This is very problematic in terms of equity in the context of an award. Moreover, the FMAC (contemporary art funds of the City of Geneva) does not offer the possibility of applying for a support to produce the work for this exhibition. In the context of the Swiss Art Awards, the Federal Office of Culture gives a flat-rate amount of CHF 5000 to artists selected for the second round, and the Swiss Performance Art Award the sum of CHF 3000. The City of Geneva must make available a grant for the production of the works and the remuneration of the artists selected for this exhibition.


The City of Geneva “supports active artists” and “the plurality and development of artistic practices, as well as the local, national and international contemporary art scene. It encourages initiatives that facilitate access to culture and understanding of contemporary art for all.”8 We believe that the City of Geneva, the Canton and Municipalities, by introducing new policies and regulations requiring the systematic remuneration of artists* by the art spaces, institutions and projects they support, will fully achieve their mission as a public service in the field of contemporary art and thus minimize the precarity which artists* in Geneva are facing. By doing so, these authorities will in actuality be able to guarantee access to artistic practice for everyone, by ensuring a more equitable remuneration of artistic work, so a diverse, innovative and high quality production.

6. The Creative Independent, A study on the financial state of visual artists today, 2018 
7. Suisseculture Sociale, Enquête sur le revenu et la protection sociale des artistes, 2016. The survey covered all fields (visual arts, film, photography, literature, music, dance and theatre). In 2017, Johannes M. Hedinger conducted a survey exclusively among visual artists in Switzerland, The New Artist. The results were equally alarming. 
8. Convention de subventionnement 2018-2021 entre la Ville de Genève et act-art, p. 5