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Exhibition Honorarium for visual artists in Berlin

Update: 11/22/2018 (guideline for download)

Berlin model of the “Exhibition Honorarium” for visual artists

The bbk berlin sees political support and social discourses for the promotion and expansion of the infrastructure for artistic production as its central task. In addition to the provision of workshops for all visual arts disciplines, studios and studio flats, the association supports artists through counseling and educational offers that relate to artistic work and life as artists in their entirety.

For the bbk berlin, it was beyond question to fill a gap in the recognition of artistic work in public presentations: the payment of an exhibition honorarium to artists, when they share their works, artistic ideas and expressions in spaces open to the public, the provide municipal or state-supported exhibition activities. This was long overdue, and the need for such recognition had to be explained comprehensibly to all concerned.

Up until 2006, discussions on the issue of exhibition compensation for the use of works by visual artists were primarily concerned with improving "copyright law", so since 2009 the bbk berlin has been guided by the "Swedish model of exhibition honorarium". This model provides for payments to artists by state exhibition institutions for the exhibition use of works owned by the artists themselves. Payments are derived from the ownership of works, not copyright.

In the course of many years of discussion, the bbk berlin has found that a clear definition of the term "Exhibition Honorarium" is a key to the solution. Not only political decision-makers or leaders of municipal exhibition spaces, art associations and museums, but also freelance curators and even artists, the demarcation of the exhibition honorarium as remuneration for the provision of artistic statements in the exhibition industry fell and falls to other fee payments such as production costs, Material money, catalog funding, construction and dismantling financing up to transport or travel costs difficult. The bbk berlin had to learn that this conceptual clarification and thus differentiation of other financial expenses in the context of an artistic exhibition and presentation project is paramount in order to achieve a broader basis for the social recognition of the payment of an exhibition honorarium.

The exhibition honorarium, which is to be paid exclusively for the provision of artistic expression in the context of an exhibition or presentation to artists who are also in possession of these works or artistic interventions, thus also needed a new form of financing - a new fund.

That was our starting point.

The Berlin municipal galleries and showrooms which are supported by project funds of the city administration should be equipped by the state of Berlin with additional funds. On the one hand, to win them over as a partner for the project, and on the other, in order to be able to pay reasonable appreciable fees to the artist.

The Berlin municipal galleries are in their diversity the most important interface between the equally diverse Berlin art production and the public. In 31 freely accessible galleries and thus on 10,000 square meters of exhibition space are held annually about 200 exhibitions in which about 1,200 artists involved.

In addition to one-on-one talks with members of the Berlin Senate and employees of the Berlin cultural administration, the bbk berlin also included the specialist public and heads of the municipal galleries in the discourse. We had to win all their support and understanding.

On the initiative of the bbk berlin and moderated by the association, the municipal galleries of Berlin came together in 2012 and formulated common goals while preserving and ensuring the diversity of their artistic programs and curatorial approaches.

As early as 2012, the bbk berlin was able to negotiate a draft resolution for the Berlin House of Representatives on the basis of a proposal for a procedure agreed with most of the municipal galleries with the Berlin Department of Culture Administration.

At the same time, the actors of the independent scene joined forces in a coalition (KdFS - coalition of the independent scene of Berlin) and in 2012 they also published for the first time a 10-point program to improve the situation of all artists. In addition to the demand for a significant increase in the scholarship and project funds in the field of visual arts, we also anchored there the establishment of a fund for the exhibition honorarium in Berlin.

Gradually, the request of the KdFS and other representatives of the artists was met, namely to engage in a continuous exchange with the relevant cultural administrations. In the field of the visual arts, the discussion and action platform "To Have and To Need", in which the bbk berlin was also actively represented, was an important trigger for the "Jour Fix Bildende Kunst", which today takes place several times a year, including the Senate Department regularly invites for culture and Europe. Here, current political decisions can and should be discussed and priorities set that influence artistic work processes.

However, the enforcement of the exhibition fund was not only about the "pure formulation" of our demands to the political decision-making bodies, but we were active with campaigns in the network of KdFS Berlin and in the context of "To Have and To Need".  Through open letters, manifestos, workshops and dialogue procedures, a public reaching far beyond the national borders was reached.

At the same time we started our own artistic-performative campaign for the budget decision 2016/17. Here, the bbk berlin had an absolutely highly motivated and artistically and politically impressive team with the artists Sabine Reinfeld as Avatar, Prof. Ulf Aminde, Zoë Claire Miller, Sophie-Therese Trenka-Dalton and the curators and theoreticians Susa Husse and Michaela Richter, won. The urgency of a change of perspective became so visual, tangible and concrete: Whether in one-on-one talks in the House of Representatives, in public appearances of cultural politicians or in the (art) actions within Berlin's art highlights such as the ART WEEK 2015.

In this way, the public created a pictorial understanding of the precarious working and living conditions of the artists and of the need for a refinancing concept.

Due to the pressure built up over many years, by means of many actions, the great solidarity of the artists and a lot of dedication, we had success. Through the collaborative initiatives of the Berlin artists, the working group of the municipal galleries founded in 2014, the KdFS Berlin and thanks to the support of the former Secretary of State for Culture, Tim Renner, the so-called "Berlin model" for the payment of exhibition honorarium became a part of the Berlin cultural budget. In addition to the exhibition honorarium fund, 60 new research scholarships (“Zeitstipendien - time scholarships”) were added to the budget for the promotion of fine arts.

In 2016, 300,000 euros were available each year for the newly established exhibition honorarium fund. In early 2018, this fund was increased to 400,000 euros. The honorarium is paid on the basis of a guideline of the Land Berlin in all municipal galleries of Berlin. That in places of art and artist promotion, which allow artistic experiments and the development of new presentation and mediation formats beyond the marketing pressure. This promotion of art and its presentation is in the interest of the general public. Therefore, it is important to pay fair and fair artistic production, when and where it is made available to the public - as well as the remuneration of all other services necessary for the professional presentation of art.

That enables Berlin artists and the municipal galleries to meet on an equal footing in order to fulfill the public mission of the galleries to promote artists. With the payment of exhibition honorarium, the value of artistic work is recognized by politics and society.

The concept of the "Berlin Model" is simple and it works like this:

The extra fund (not funded by City Tax, but firmly anchored in the state budget) is used exclusively for the remuneration of professional visual artists, and thus for the provision of their artistic works or performances in temporary exhibition projects of the municipal galleries of Berlin. This ensures that the honorarium is not at the expense of the exhibition planning. Appropriate contracts for the payment of production, catalog or material costs, or even curatorial services, construction work or transport costs must of course be completed as before, in addition.

At the beginning of the year, the municipal galleries of Berlin submit applications to the Senate Department for Culture and Europe about the need for their funds and according to their exhibition planning for the entire current year. Since the beginning of 2018 this corresponds to the following fee scale (the honorarium is to be understood as minimum honorarium):

•         1,500 euros per participant in a solo exhibition (1 to 2 participants)

•         500 Euro per participant in smaller group exhibitions (3 to 9 participants)

•         250 euros per participant in larger group exhibitions (from 10 participants)

All exhibiting artists benefit from this payment regardless of their place of residence. The minimum honorarium is applied to all municipal galleries and exhibitions which work with a support by project funds of the city government.

The municipal galleries manage the funds flowing into the district households by means of order management themselves. They are earmarked; that is, the districts cannot use them for purposes other than exhibition honorarium.
The galleries conclude contracts for the exhibition honorarium with the artists. The exhibition honorarium is paid gross. Any tax obligations are borne by the artists. The exhibition honorarium applies to the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) as income from artistic activity.

From the artist's point of view you cannot get rich with this honorarium. But they are also more than a symbol, a sign of the express appreciation of artistic work by the public. Considering how precarious the economic basis of the artist's profession is usually, additional income, even of just a few hundred euros per year, may very well be of great importance to the individual artists.

In addition, exhibition honorarium is freely negotiable at any time. Each country and each municipality can determine rules that they themselves consider appropriate and plausible. The state of Berlin has now used this room for maneuver and thus sent a very important message to all federal states.

After ten years ago the initiatives in the German Bundestag failed to reform copyright in the sense of visual artists, the bbk berlin, in cooperation with the municipal galleries, worked towards the realization of this pragmatic and simple model.

The "Berlin model" and a reform of copyright in the sense of the "Initiative Ausstellungsvergütung" are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, they would complement one another: The "Berlin Model" implies a self-commitment of a country or a municipality. The payment is made on the basis of individual fee contracts for the use of works that are owned by the artists themselves, and that they make their own work available to them - and only for this purpose.

However, a copyright reform would be an extension and improvement of exhibition law, so that in principle for each use of a work of the visual arts in an exhibition - regardless of ownership of this work and independent of the organizer of the exhibition - a remuneration to the author / the author of the work would have to be paid, or to the heirs. A legal claim ends only 70 years after the death of an author. Of course, in most cases, this only makes sense by involving a collecting society. This distributes revenue to its members from the assertion of the remuneration claim against the recyclers or their associations according to distribution keys to be decided.

Legally and practically are the "Berlin Model" and enforcement of an exhibition rights in copyright law very different things. This is also because the "Berlin Model" can be practiced decentralized by federal states and municipalities at any time, while copyright is a federal matter. So, we can do the one thing without abandoning the other.

Artistic work always has its value. Then this work must have its price.

bbk berlin, 2018
Heidi Sill and Zoë Claire Miller
spokeswomen of the Professional Association of Visual Artists Berlin
berufsverband bildender künstler*innen berlin

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