A survey on the economic situation of the artists in Spain

The critical economic situation that the art system and the art market are going through, the precariousness of the artists’ work and their need to adapt to these new conditions gives us a new dimension that must be evaluated. From the Spanish universities of Granada and Nebrija, professors Marta Pérez Ibáñez and Isidro López-Aparicio are developing a research project which aims to analyze the current economic situation of the plastic and visual artists in our country. This is the first time in nearly ten years that a survey of this size is being held in Spain, a survey that so far has involved 1,100 artists, the most important primary source of information about the economy of the artists in our country, and a good example of the situation of this sector in Southern Europe. This research study aims to let us know what the situation of the artists currently is, how they are suffering from the economic recession, how they have changed their relationships with the art market and how their work is supporting the structures of the art system.

The aim of our study is to provide a deep insight into the economic and professional activity of artists in Spain, a situation that has never been evaluated this way so far, with two specific aspects of interest. First, we want to know firsthand how artists live and work, how they survive in the current difficult situation that both the art market and the art system are going on. Secondly, given the obvious changes that can be seen not only in the income from artistic activities, but in every relationship that the artist establishes with gallery owners, curators, institutions, collectors, we want to know how artists fit the new conditions imposed by the art market in this crisis. In addition, there is an emerging young artist profile, very open to new technologies, whose way of relating with the market in recent years is very different. This research project intends to shed light on a sector in profound changes due to the difficult economic situation. Since recent studies conducted among others by AAVC Eurostat in 2006 or in 2011, need a thorough review, our research aims to develop a comprehensive and well segmented survey and a rigorous quantitative and qualitative analysis. The data that anonymously each artist is contributing with will help us better meet the demands and needs of our creators, and to propose a code of good practices to optimize their relationship with the market and the art system in Spain.

Therefore, this research is innovative mainly in two aspects:

    •   because of the very information provided by the artists, a larger and more complete sample than any other study done before in Spain, it is necessary to understand the situation being experienced by the creators in our country, as generators of an activity that is culturally, economically and socially imperative,
    •   because it is crucial as a starting point to meet the present and imagine the future of the artist within the context of the art system in Spain. The results from the data provided by the artists will allow us, based on the analysis of the current state of the system and art market, to raise those key points in the relationship between artists and industry to establish best practices codes and optimize resources for both.

Our aims

The artist is undoubtedly the most important element in the art system and the art market. The artist is the origin of a product that generates an economic and professional activity, which is involved in the cultural industry, which creates jobs and produces wealth. But also, the artist is not only a producer: he/she is a creator who, in their action, generates feasible products that may be marketed. However, the business is not always linked to the creative activity. In fact, it almost never part of the need or the intention of obtaining an economic advantage, and should not be. Still, it is true that market recognition that supports and exhibits his work and the public who acquires must accompany the artistic production itself. Hence, it is interesting to see how this new relationship the artist as prescriber is establishing with the art market using other tools of relationship, other training means, other skills, attitudes and ways to build their career and how this influences the activity of the whole system. Moreover, the art market itself is also going through a striking adaptation process, incorporating new business models that cater to new profiles of users and consumers of artistic and cultural products, and thus engaging alternative relationships with creators, different from the ones we have known so far.

The evolution of the role the artist played in the whole system of art over the last few decades, as we see, has been rapid, profound and had very obvious consequences, for both the system itself and its mechanisms of development and for the emergence of new agents, tools and connecting channels between the various stakeholders. Our study raises a clear hypothesis: the artist of the 21st century, through the new tools of management, communication and interaction within their reach, and using new skills, attitudes and ways to build their career, generates resources, new ways of interaction with the sector and a new management behavior in the market that are critical to their survival, and show a high resilience to adverse conditions posed by the current economic situation.

The survey, which is the main source of data for our study was launched in mid-May 2016 through various channels: professional associations at national level, institutions, museums, press and influencers of the artistic and cultural world in Spain, social networks, blogs, etc. Thus, this guaranteed wider dissemination and outreach between the sector, and high participation. Previous studies had the participation of around 400 artists. Our survey has already reached 1,100 responses, which will have far exceeded the targets set.

Interestingly, the commitment shown by the 1,100 artists who have agreed to contribute their data and opinion in this survey implies that our study has been known, shared and viralized by most of the Spanish arts sector, not only artists and their associations but galleries, institutions, museums, art centers, critics, curators, cultural and artistic managers, and so on. To date, there are many professionals in the art of our country interested in the results of our survey, which are an evidence of the scale of this research and the need to know the situation in which our artists work. Our primary responsibility is, therefore, to make visible the results provided by our study, in order to grant our artists the value they deserve and to propose what lines of action can help improve their work and professional circumstances.

Marta Pérez Ibanez

Major in Art History at the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid (Spain), PhD Candidate in Art History at Universidad de Granada (Spain), she currently develops her professional career as university professor and as an art consultant specialized in the art market. She studies her PhD courses at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (USA) with Prof. Jonathan Brown, and is also graduate in Counter-Reformation Art at the Universitá Italiana per Stranieri in Perugia (Italy). In the early nineties, she joined the art research team at the Frick Art Reference Library in New York (USA) working on the publication of Spanish Artists from the Fourth to the Twentieth Century: a Critical Dictionary. On her return to Spain, from 1991 to 2008, she worked as managing director of Durán Art Gallery in Madrid. She currently lectures at Nebrija University and Nebrija Institute of Professional Competences in Madrid and many other public and private institutions throughout Spain, such as Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Instituto Superior de Arte, Alliance Francaise, ESCP Europe Business School, Fundaciòn Claves de Arte, Instituto Nacional de la Administración Public, etc. She participates as jury member in many Spanish artistic rewards. She is a member of the Nebrija University Research Group of Cross-sectional Surveys in Contemporary Artistic Creation. She is also Section Editor in charge of the Spanish and Portuguese Art Market research at De Gruyter Publishing, Berlin (Germany).

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