The peak body protecting and promoting the Australian visual arts sector

10 Key Recommendations

As part of measures to ensure a conducive environment for the visual arts in Australia, NAVA proposes the following recommendations to be considered for address in national government arts policies.

1. Senate Inquiry

Recommendation 1

That all the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry into arts funding be implemented, especially:

- the need for all political parties to have well researched evidence based arts policies; and

- funding for the Australia Council to be restored at least to 2013 levels.

2. Artists Fees

Recommendation 2 (a)

That there be a binding standard agreement with the government through the Australia Council that fees be paid by all federal and state/territory government funded organisations to artists who have been commissioned or have loaned works for exhibition. These fees must be paid at least at the minimum recommended rates specified in the NAVA Code of Practice for the Professional Visual Arts, Craft and Design Sector.

Recommendation 2(b)

That there be an increase in government funding of $5m/year specifically allocated for an Artists Fees Fund to assist underfunded arts organisations to have the capacity to pay. This should be administered on a needs basis by the Australia Council.

3. Small to Medium Arts Organisations (S2Ms)

Recommendation 3

That there be an increase of government funding to the S2Ms of $12m/year administered through the Australia Council, of which $3m should be specified for S2M visual arts organisations.

Recommendation 4 (a)

That the current ‘fair dealing’ regime be retained to ensure that IP creators' financial and moral rights are protected against abuse. This should not be replaced by the deeply flawed 'fair use’ system which has caused chaos and loss of rights for creators in other countries.

Recommendation 4 (b)

That the Artists Resale Royalty regime be continued without any diminution of its benefits paid to artists.

Recommendation 4 (c)

That copyright, design registration and patent legislation be changed to provide an accessible and affordable regime of protection for craftspeople and designers against unauthorised use or replication of their work and exploitation of their ideas.

5. Taxation

Recommendation 5 (a)

That any government grants, fellowships, scholarships or awards to artists be tax exempt

Recommendation 5 (b)

That a change be made to the Non-Commercial Losses New Business Tax System (Integrity Measures) Act 2000 to raise the threshold for artists' income from other non-arts activities to at least $120,000, as one of the tests in making a determination about whether the artist is eligible to make income tax claims.

Recommendation 5 (c)

That regulations be amended to make it permissible for the exhibition or display of artworks invested in by Self Managed Super Funds on their own or related premises rather than requiring the works to be stored unseen.

Recommendation 5 (d)

That there be introduction of tax incentives for the purchase of work by living Australian artists.

6. Social Security/Superannuation

Recommendation 6 (a)

That being an artist is recognised as a profession by Centrelink, and professional artists be assisted under the social security regime to build their capacity to earn income within their profession.

Recommendation 6 (b)

That an Artists Income Supplement pension scheme be established to provide financial assistance to self-employed artists when their income falls below the minimum wage; once they are recognized as ‘self-employed professional artists' when assessed against arts industry standards.

7. Arts Education

Recommendation 7 (a)

That all five art forms (dance, drama, media arts, music and visual arts & design) be included as mandatory in the national curriculum in schools for all children from pre-school up to year 8; and from year 9 to 10, it is mandatory for children be given the choice of learning at least two out of the five art forms each year, one of which should be visual arts and design. For this purpose secondary schools should be properly resourced with specialist arts teachers as required.

Recommendation 7 (b)

That an artist in schools program be established which provides each school with a continuing artists residency program.

8. Recognition and Respect

Recommendation 8 (a)

That there is an annual independently assessed Prime Ministerial Visual Artist Award of $100,000 and 5 other excellent artists are revered and rewarded annually as Living National Treasures.

Recommendation 8 (b)

That a three-year fellowship scheme is established for 20 selected mature art practitioners each year at the level of $80,000/year indexed annually.

Recommendation 8 (c)

That artists’ freedom of expression is protected through legislating a national Charter or Bill of Rights.

9. Emerging Artists

Recommendation 9

That the Australia Council’s Artstart program be restored with direct funding from government of $5 million/year.

10. Arts Touring

Recommendation 10

That the funding for NETS Australia be restored and increased by $2 million/year


1: Artists’ Exhibition Fees


To legislate an exhibition remuneration agreement, under which artists would receive compensation for the display of works from the Government via the Australia Council.

The compensation would be paid to artists based on various grounds, for example:

  1. the exhibition of their works for the enjoyment by the public;
  2. their lack of access to using or selling their artwork during the time of exhibition;
  3. the work hours/time spent on the exhibition;
  4. similar to a lease, a tariff based on time that the artist cannot use the artworks and based also on the value of the works;
  5. production costs, especially for site-specific work or new commissions that cannot be sold afterwards.


Norway has an exhibition remuneration agreement, in collaboration with the Norwegian Government (called Statens Utstillingsvederlagsavtale). The agreement commits the government to pay compensation for visual artists exhibiting in state-owned or state-supported institutions. The remuneration is paid by the individual institutions to the artists. In Norway, artists currently receive a two-fold ‘compensation’ for the exhibition of their works NOK 248 (EUR 28) per artwork per month for exhibiting, and NOK 264 (EUR 30) per artwork per month to compensate for the artist ability to exhibit the work.


To create a legislated binding agreement for remuneration to artists for the display of work, which forms the basis for individual agreement to be made between organisers and artists and specifies the terms and conditions to include.

A standard agreement (as an agreement template) in accordance with the above framework agreement would be legislatively formatted so that it could be used when an organiser and an artist conclude an agreement concerning the artist’s participation in an exhibition.


In 2009, the Swedish government adopted an agreement for remuneration to artists for the display of work, called the MU agreement, which covers payment to artists as a kind of rent. This is additional to other kinds of financial compensation for an exhibition, such as transport, installation, publication, etc. The agreement makes it clear that all work the artist undertakes for exhibitions – before, during and after the show – is to be governed by a written contract and remunerated. The MU agreement comprises a framework agreement that specifies which terms and conditions to include, based on and in accordance with the framework agreement. The agreement is to be used when an organiser and an artist confirm the artist’s participation in an exhibition. The agreement is binding on all public institutions with an exhibition role, and provides guidance for all professional exhibition organisers in receipt of public funding.


Copyright Exhibition Fee: To amend the Copyright Act (1968) so that the exhibition fee is paid by publicly funded exhibiting institutions as a kind of ‘lease’ of a copyright artwork

Precedent The payment of the exhibition fee for the public exhibition of artistic production became part of Canadian federal copyright law in 1988. In addition, when art works in a gallery’s permanent collection are exhibited, a copyright exhibition fee is required to be paid, otherwise, the gallery’s funding may be withheld. This fee is payment for the use of work in an exhibition in a public space where the gallery receives public funds.


To make it legislatively binding that all government arts funding authorities require their clients to pay artists’ fees at least at the minimum levels, as set out in NAVA’s Code of Practice for the Professional Australian Visual Arts, Craft and Design Sector.

To this end, NAVA has called for an additional AUS$5m to be allocated within federal and state/territory government arts budgets, earmarked for the payment of artists’ fees.

It is estimated that the actual cost would be $10m if exhibition fees were paid by all public galleries according to NAVA’s minimum rates.

2: Social Benefits for Self-Employed Artists

Multiple modes of income generation used by artists (such as working under a succession of project-based, short-term contracts, running a micro business or selling their artwork) have created a great deal of legal uncertainty as to their status, and thus the majority of artists face structural instability in their professional careers.

As they are usually considered ‘self-employed’, many if not all artists who cannot support themselves financially with income generated from their artistic activities, fall outside social security protection including entitlement to unemployment benefits and pension schemes.

Some countries have tackled this issue by establishing special social security systems specifically designed for artists, taking into account their unusual working arrangements.

The following are recommendations developed from the measures that those countries have taken in improving the social status of artists in the three areas of Social Security, namely, Income Supplements, Pension Scheme and Unemployment Benefits.

2.1 Income Supplements

Set up a special social security system for financial assistance for artists who cannot support themselves or whose income level falls below the minimum wage in order to ensure their own subsistence.


Netherlands: Artists Work and Income Scheme Act (WWIK) gives supplementary income to artists if they cannot support themselves by giving artists with an insufficient income level (less than or equal to the maximum amount of social assistance) the opportunity to receive a supplementary income for a maximum of 4 years over a period of 10 years. Applicants are screened by an independent advisory body, and an assessment of whether they are ‘professionally active’ will take into account things such as equipment owned by the artist, products or productions recently supplied, grants received and recent exhibitions or personal appearances.

Luxembourg has a special system for time-based financial assistance for artists whose income falls below the minimum wage. Once recognised as ‘self-employed professional artists’ by the Minister of Culture, they can claim financial assistance provided by the Cultural Social Fund and subsidised by the Luxembourg State during months when their income is less than the minimum wage.

To be recognised as having the status of a self-employed professional artist, a written application must be made to the Minister of Culture. This status is accorded by a special Committee to those who have met the fixed criteria and can prove their professional activities for three years prior to the application.

2.2 Pension Scheme


To set up a Social Security Insurance Fund for self-employed artists, that grants artists a pension supplement if their income from artistic activity is below a certain level as set out in the legislation (e.g. a minimum wage rate as an income threshold).

To be eligible for this pension subsidy, artists would need to be registered for the Insurance Scheme having met all criteria as set out in the legislation.

To decide whether applicants are ‘professionally active’, the relevant legislation may specify requirements for a person to be recognised as a ‘professional artist’ similar to what is required by the Australian Tax Office in recognising artists as being ‘in business’ for income tax purposes.


In Austria, the Artists’ Social Security Insurance Structure Act set up a Social Security Insurance Fund for Artists (KSVF), which grants artists a pension supplement of up to EUR 130 per month, if their annual income from artistic activity is at least EUR 4,515 and the sum of all their income does not exceed EUR 22, 575 annually. Artists registered for compulsory insurance and who fulfil all other requirements will receive a subsidy towards their pension contributions from KSVF.


Government provides a direct subsidy towards the artists’ Pension Contributions without income thresholds, sharing contributions with the artist and enterprises regularly using the artist’s works.


Artists’ Social Security Act of Germany provides old age pensions along with health insurance and nursing care for self-employed artists (the KSK). The contributions towards the KSK are shared between the individual artist (50%), the federal government (20%) and enterprises regularly using artists’ works and services (30%). Membership in the KSK is obligatory for all self-employed artists. Employed artists fall under the general social insurance scheme, which is also compulsory. The KSK has now been operating for more than 30 years.

2.3 Centrelink recognition

Centrelink recognises that being an artist is a profession. This will require the support of appropriately trained caseworkers so as to assist artists to find relevant work opportunities and to allow artists to access appropriate Work for the Dole work experience.


New Zealand has operated the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (PACE) scheme since 2001. The scheme is designed to assist job seekers to develop a career in the arts and creative industries by allowing artists and cultural workers to list art as their first career choice. It is also intended to get unemployed artists off the dole and able to build sustainable careers which utilise their skills and training to full effect. Since its establishment, the scheme has been acclaimed for its success by helping a number of people on the Unemployment Benefit into sustainable employment in arts and creative industries. According to the Ministry of Social Development of New Zealand, the overall number of people on the Unemployment Benefit plummeted from150,213 in 2001 to 23, 272 in 2011 thanks to the scheme. Further, in Dunedin, one of the areas where the scheme has been thriving over the last 13 years, nearly 80 per cent of the artists who have used the scheme end up off the benefit, working in their chosen field of arts and having sustainable careers.

3. Grants and Financing

To honour those who have contributed significantly to the arts, through the Australia Council establish an Affiliation of Creative Artists and grant them financial benefits to allow them to devote themselves to their art.


Ireland: In addition to tax measures providing tax exemptions for creative artists, another available form of social benefit for artists in Ireland is Aosdana, an affiliation of creative artists over the age of 30. Established in 1983 by the Arts Council of Ireland, it is a mechanism designed to honor those artists who have contributed significantly to the arts in Ireland and to allow them to devote themselves to their art.

The main benefit of membership is a stipend paid annually for a five-year period (which is also tax exempt), and renewable for subsequent five-year periods, to enable an artist to work full-time at their art. To become a member of Aosdana, an artist has to be nominated by a peer and elected.

4. Other types of focused assistance

The following recommendation is more likely to fall within State/Territory jurisdictions, rather than the federal sphere.

Provision of affordable housing and work space to artists who qualify as low-income. Establish a % for Art Space scheme whereby in every major development, a proportion of space is allocated for artists’ subsidized working and living space. This is similar to Section 94 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) which generates some social benefit from development.


New York City: On February 3rd 2015, the New York City Mayor announced a plan to provide 1,500 units of affordable housing to artists and musicians. The city will build 150 units of artists’ housing each year for the next 10 years and will target working artists who qualify as low-income.

The plan also calls for developing 500 units of work space for creatives, and the city will pick one or two city-owned spaces for the first leg of the project by the end of 2015. Funding will come from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Cultural Affairs and private foundations.

According to the income limits the plan will most likely use, an individual would qualify as low-income if he or she makes US$29,400 to $47,000 a year. A family of four qualifies as low-income if they earn an annual salary of US$41,951 to $67,120.

Baltimore: In 1987 Artists’ Housing Incorporated was officially opened providing affordable housing for artists in a supportive cooperative environment. In 2015 this pioneer of housing cooperatives celebrates the 26th Anniversary of its Charter. From rented studios in former warehouses to residency programs and government funded artists’ apartments, the housing opportunities vary, but Baltimore offers two main Arts & Entertainment districts: Station North; and Highlandtown Arts.

City of Seattle: the Office of Housing has partnered with Artspace Projects, Inc. and Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, to build nearly 150 units of affordable housing designed to meet the needs of artists. The Seattle Housing Levy has funded three apartment buildings with units affordable and designed for working artists. In addition to these buildings designed specifically with artists’ needs in mind, painters, musicians, filmmakers and other working artists have found homes in other Seattle Housing Levy-funded apartments around the city.

Boston City: Boston has provided artists with affordable housing through the Artistspace Housing programme since 2002 by helping create living and work spaces and retaining existing spaces for artist in the city. The city now boasts more than 200 existing units as affordable housing for artists and continues to help create such spaces.

Nashville: In 2015, a local nonprofit CDFI, the Housing Fund, has received a $200,000 grant from the Kresge and Surdna foundations to help lower- and middle-income artists buy, rehabilitate, and construct live-work spaces in Nashville and Davidson Country.

Minneapolis: The A-Mill Artists’ Lofts will be opening in 2015 in Minneapolis. One of only four national historic landmarks in the city, the former Pillsbury Mill has now been converted into a 251-unit apartment building at an estimated cost of $156 million, with $46 million coming from state and federal historic tax credits.