Regulating Artists’ Exhibition Fees

Regulating Artists’ Exhibition Fees

In an effort to standardize fees for visual artists who are not exhibiting their work for commercial purposes, many organizations in the Netherlands joined forces under the Kunstenhaars Honorarium. The platform features an easy to follow checklist and calculator (English guidelines) for the various scenarios an artist may encounter. While acknowledging the potential profit a museum or cultural institution can generate, the platform stipulates a sales maximum. It says that the payment to artists should be adjusted when an institution has over €500,000 in sales. The Professional Association of Visual Artists, Mondriaan FondsCase NowArt AssociationSociety Platform for Visual Arts, and Affair Now are all stakeholders in the Kunstenhaars Honorarium.

Current museum partners honoring the Kunstenhaars Honorarium include the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, Bonnefantenmuseum, Kröller-Müller Museum Otterlo, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Mauritshuis, The Hague, Utrecht Centraal Museum, Groninger Museum, Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen Haarlem, Dordrecht Museum, Rijksmuseum Twente, TwentseWelle Schunck Heerlen Museum Arnhem, Museum Het Valkhof Nijmegen, Museum De Lakenhal Leiden, National Natural History Museum Naturalis Leiden, Dutch Fotomuseum Rotterdam, National Museum of World Cultures, Zuiderzeemuseum Enkhuizen, Kunsthal KAdE Amersfoort Vrede Utrecht, Kranenburgh Bergen Flood museum Ouwerkerk, Fries Museum and Ceramics Museum Princessehof Leeuwarden.

While it’s good to see major institutions like the Van Gogh Museum involved in this initiative, this list only represents a small number of the over 400 museums in the Netherlands alone. The Rijksmuseum, the museum in Amsterdam famed for its “I Amsterdam” sculpture, is not part of the list. Following the economic crash of 2008-2009, European institutions lost major funding and drastically lowered their fees. Although the Rijksmuseum, and other major cultural institutions survived the budget cuts, they were able to use the crisis as a tool for lowering payments to artists. A 2012 NY Times article states, “In the case of the Netherlands, the culture budget is being cut by about $265 million, or 25 percent, by the start of 2013, and taxes on tickets to cultural events are to rise to 19 percent from 6 percent…” When this pervasive discussion is happening, it’s easy to rationalize tighter budgets.

Culturally, the economic crisis is mostly resolved. However, there is no incentive for a major globally-known museum to raise their fees to pre-crisis rates. This is especially true for institutions that can leverage their influence and have seemingly boundless resources. Although the Kunstenhaars Honorarium is a much-needed start to regulate the creative industries, it only applies to the Netherlands. It also requires insider information to know which cultural institutions honor its terms. There’s no real incentive for a major museum to participate, especially since they can continue to attract a large volume of willing artists and visitors from all over the world.