The Berlin Model - exhibition payments
The concept of the "Berlin Model" is simple and since January 2016 it works like this:
The specially created fund, which is firmly anchored in the state budget, is provided exclusively for the remuneration of professional visual artists, and thus for the provision of their artistic works or performances in temporary exhibition projects at Berlin's municipal galleries. This ensures that the payments are not made at the expense of exhibition planning. Corresponding contracts for the payment of production, catalogue or material costs, or curatorial services, set-up work or transport costs naturally have to be concluded in addition, as before.
At the beginning of the year, Berlin's municipal galleries submit applications to the Senate Department for Culture and Europe regarding their need for funds and in accordance with their exhibition planning for the full current year. Since January 2018, this has corresponded to the following scale of payments (the payments are to be understood as minimum payments):
- Individual exhibition (1-2 artists): min. € 1,500 / artist
- Small group exhibition (3-9 artists): min. € 500 / artist
- Group exhibition (>10 artists): min. € 250 / artist
- Group exhibition (>30 artists): min. € 100 / artist
The exhibition payment fund, which has been paid to Berlin's municipal galleries since January 2016, was increased in 2017 for the 2018/19 biennial budget from €300,000 to €400,000, and all exhibiting artists will benefit, regardless of their place of residence. Previously, this was only possible for artists who were resident in Berlin. The minimum fees apply to all exhibitions sponsored by the state or in municipal galleries.
The municipal galleries themselves manage the funds flowing into the district budgets through contract management. They are earmarked; the districts cannot use them for purposes other than the fulfilment of exhibition payments.
The galleries conclude contracts with the artists for the exhibition payments. The exhibition payment is made in gross. Any tax liabilities are to be borne by the artists. The exhibition payment is considered as income from artistic activities by the artists' social security fund (KSK).
From an artist's point of view, you cannot get rich with these payments. But they are also more than a symbol, namely a sign of the explicit appreciation of artistic work by the public representatives.
Considering the precarious economic foundation of the artistic profession in most cases, additional income, even if only a few hundred euros per year, may definitely be of great importance for individual artists.
In addition, exhibition payments are freely negotiable at any time; each state and municipality can set rules for this purpose which they themselves consider appropriate and plausible. The State of Berlin has now made use of this room for manoeuvre and so sent an extremely important message to all the federal states.
After initiatives in the German Bundestag to reform copyright law in the interest of visual artists failed ten years ago, the bbk berlin, in cooperation with the municipal galleries, has been working towards the realization of this pragmatic and simple model.
The "Berlin Model" and a reform of copyright law in the sense of e.g. the "Initiative Ausstellungsvergütung" are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, they would complement each other. The "Berlin Model" results in self-commitment by the state or a municipality. Payment is made on the basis of individual contracts for the use of works owned by the artists themselves, i.e. for making a work belonging to them available for this purpose - and only for this purpose.
However, a reform of copyright law would involve an extension and improvement of exhibition law so that, in principle, remuneration would have to be paid to the author of a work of fine art - or to the heirs - for each use in an exhibition - irrespective of the ownership of the work and irrespective of the organizer of the exhibition. Legal claims do not end until 70 years after the death of an author. In most cases, this can only be achieved in a sensible way by involving a collecting society. This society would distribute income to its members, gained from assertion of claims for remuneration against the users or their associations, according to distribution principles as yet to be decided.
Legally and practically, the "Berlin Model" and the enforcement of an exhibition fee claim are very different matters in copyright law. This is partly because the "Berlin Model" can be practiced decentrally at any time by federal states and municipalities, while copyright law is a federal matter. One thing can therefore be done without abandoning the other. Artistic work always has a value. But in this case, it must also have its price.
bbk berlin, May 2017 (editorial updated in July 2020)