Until 1997, the Australia Council mandated the payment of artists' fees according to a schedule it published in its Grants Handbook. As responsibility for industrial matters was transferred from the Council to peak arts bodies NAVA took up the task and in 2001, and published recommended fees scales in its Code of Practice for the Australia Visual Arts and Craft Sector. These were updated in 2004 and 2007. They were updated again in early 2016, and again in 2017.
In 2005 a group of artists (Sydney Art Seen Society) instigated by Gail Hastings called for the mandating of artists' fee payments for any exhibition of their work in a public gallery. They staged protests which were emulated in several other capital cities, calling for a minimum payment to an artist of $2,000 for a solo exhibition.
In response, and to assess the art sector's attitudes and practises, that same year NAVA undertook research, conducted interviews with a range of organisations and practitioners and sent out a survey. We found that there was very variable compliance with industry standards by public institutions across all levels including national, state and regional galleries, university galleries, contemporary art and craft spaces and major events (like festivals and biennales). Some paid at the minimum recommended rates or higher, but most paid less or nothing at all. Artist run initiatives were not included in the survey, understanding that they mostly are not funded and run on a volunteer basis.
The outcome was that NAVA adopted $2,000 as the new minimum standard for a solo exhibition, adding CPI every year from then on. Currently the recommended rate for solo exhibition artists' fees is $2,564-$3,478 variable based on the stage of the artist's career. Note the artist fee is separate to production and/or material fees.