04.11.2022 | Artists Are Hit Hard by Europe’s Twinned Energy and Inflation Crises, With Material Costs Exploding and Studios Too Expensive to Heat

Devorah Lauter, November 1, 2022 on artnet.com: "One silver lining in an otherwise bleak situation is that many had already cut back on production costs during the pandemic.

As the art world elite descended on London and Paris’s art fairs this month, another reality loomed for many artists in Europe who are bracing for a tough winter ahead. Skyrocketing energy prices and general inflation are threatening households across the continent, including artists’ studio and material costs. Russia has choked supplies of natural gas on which Europe is heavily reliant. On top of the ripple effects of the lockdown of physical venues and events over the course of the pandemic, the cultural sector has been hard-hit.

Artists are not the only ones upset: when they threw a can of tomato soup on a Van Gogh painting at the National Gallery in London, young activists reminded the art world that “fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families,” who “can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup.”

The upcoming season’s rising energy bills are going to affect vulnerable people, including artists who are often in precarious financial situations. “This is an announced, coming catastrophe with delayed effects,” said Zoë Claire Miller, Berlin-based artist and spokesperson for the city’s artist union, BBK Berlin.

In Germany, which is particularly dependent on Russian gas, citizens pay energy bills based on monthly estimates, making up the cost difference at the end of the year. “The time when heads will really roll is going to be next year,” said Miller. This waiting game has left people “scared, but mostly in denial,” noted Miller. “There’s no money we can save, so we’re hoping federal aid programs will buffer the costs, and I think there will be a lot of political unrest—there already is now.”

Government Stopgap Measures

Indeed, in France last week—as the art world arrived for the inaugural Paris+ by Art Basel—workers from the energy and transportation sectors were on strike, demanding higher wages to beat back the rising costs of living. France was quick to cap gas and other energy prices earlier this year, promising to do more next year, along with offering grants to lower-income households. However, the measures have not abated anger at social inequalities or the perception that the wealthy are the least impacted, and even, in some cases, benefiting from the current crisis.

“The pandemic years gave me enough time to actually take loans and do something about” concerns about the environment said Berlin artist Antje Majewski who has long addressed these issues in her anthropological works. With state-funded loans, she installed solar panels on her studio, which heat it and charge her car and computer. As a result, her production has not been impacted by the energy crisis. She also stocked painting materials to last until next year.

Living costs in Majewski’s gas-heated, Berlin apartment, however, are another story. She said she has so far kept the heat off, and wears “a huge wool cardigan.” Lights are switched off whenever possible, and she takes fewer hot baths. Majewski received €300 ($300) from the German state to help with rising costs, and she said that she is also managing thanks to her job as a professor. Her current project, a “Garden Pavilion” in collaboration with The New Patrons and the inhabitants of a village in northeastern Germany, includes solar panels on a large mosaic work, whose energy will heat the village community center. [...] more:


Berlin artist Zoe Claire Miller at the Berlin sculpture workshop of the city’s BBK (association of visual artists).