Money Matters | Art is a Real Job

The unethical practice of ‘being paid in exposure’ is still a significant issue for early career artists and arts workers, despite many options that allow them to pursue a viable creative career and diversify their income.


This panel exchange took place during Art is a Real Job: Money Matters on 30 March, 2023. Artists Kay Abude, Rachel Burke and Ryan Presley discuss money matters with NAVA’s Georige Cyrillo.


Artist Kay Abude looking at the camera against a white background. Kay wears a dark hoodie and has their dark hair pulled off their face.

Image: Supplied by Artist

Kay Abude


Kay Abude is a multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Melbourne. Her practice spans diverse media, including sculpture, large-scale installation, photography, performance, video, and silk screen printing. 

Her works, often adorned with texts, function as provocations and explore themes of work, labour and money. Kay has shown commissioned work widely throughout Victoria and was a studio artist at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne from 2019 to 2022. 

Upcoming projects in 2023 include a solo exhibition at Passage, Prince Trade Centre, Haymarket, Sydney and a retail collaboration with Alpha60 and The Social Studio; the 2023 Peter Selzer Prize where she will present a new artwork at the Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery, and the 2023-24 Mural Commission at The Showroom, London - her first exhibition in the United Kingdom.

Learn more about Kay


Instagram: @kay.abude 

Artist Rachel Burke sits in front of her colourful artwork

Photo: Supplied by Artist.

Rachel Burke 


Rachel Burke is a practicing multidisciplinary artist, designer, and author based in Brisbane, Australia. 

Known for her vibrant, tactile wearable artworks and iconic tinsel creations, her work is inspired by a love for naive craft materials and transforming the mundane into the magical. 

She has worked on creative collaborations with numerous global brands including Disney, ASOS, Lego, Audible, Airbnb and Sephora. Rachel has exhibited her work in gallery spaces across Australia, including The Museum of Brisbane, Saint Cloche Gallery, Hamer Hall, The Australian Centre of the Moving Image, Enough Space, GAFFA, and the Redlands Art Gallery.She has also published three books with Hardie Grant. Craft Roach, Be Dazzling and Daphne & Daisy.

Learn more about Rachel


Instagram: @imakestagram

Artist Ryan Presley looks to the camera, squinting with a slight smile. He is wearing a gold chain, dark top. A rusted roof and brick building is in the background.

Photo by Claire Letitia Reynolds.

Ryan Presley


Dr. Ryan Presley was born in 1987 in Alice Springs, and currently lives and works in Brisbane. His father’s family is Marri Ngarr and originate from the Moyle River region in the Northern Territory. His mother’s family were Scandinavian immigrants to Australia. Presley’s practice wrestles with themes of power and dominion—in particular, how religion and economic control served colonialism and empire building over time, and the representation of its customs and edifices in our everyday lives. 

Presley’s work has been included in: Hungry for Tim, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna (2021); Just Not Australian, Artspace (2019); Trade Markings (Frontier Imaginaries Ed No. 5), Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands (2018); the 33rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Darwin; and the TarraWarra Biennial: Endless Circulation (both 2016). 

His first major solo exhibition, Prosperity, was held at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane in 2018. His work is held in public collections, which include the Museum of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, and the Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art. Presley completed a PhD at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, in 2016.

Learn more about Ryan


Instagram: @r.j.presley


Ethical Work Conditions for Artists and Arts Workers

Artists have various options for pursuing a creative career and diversifying their income. These include independent work, commissioned projects, public art commissions, artist-in-residence programs, teaching positions, and collaborative or collective settings. These different models provide artists with diverse paths to sustain their creative careers and contribute to the visual art, craft and design sector in Australia.

Despite many viable pathways for an artistic career in the visual arts sector, the issue of being paid in exposure is still a concern for many artists and arts workers. ‘Being paid in exposure’ is the practice of individuals or organisations offering artists the opportunity to showcase their work or participate in projects without providing adequate financial compensation. Instead, they promise exposure as a form of payment, implying that the artist will benefit from increased visibility and potential future opportunities. This approach devalues artists’ labour and undermines their ability to sustain a career. 

Exposure alone does not pay bills or cover the costs associated with creating artwork. It is crucial for artists to advocate for fair compensation, emphasising the value of their skills, time, and expertise, and to seek opportunities that provide both exposure and adequate financial remuneration for their creative work.

Organisations like the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) are at the forefront for advocating for ethical and equitable working conditions for artists and arts workers. NAVA's campaigns and initiatives, like the "Fair Pay for Artists" campaign, have played a significant role in addressing issues of undervaluation and advocating for equitable payment structures, fair contracts, and recognition of artists' contributions to society. Through these advocacy efforts, positive changes have been driven, raising awareness and promoting the principles of fair compensation and professional recognition for artists in Australia.

Recently, NAVA made a significant contribution to the national arts industry with the Code of Practice for Visual Arts, Craft and Design. The Code of Practice sets out equitable, ethical and self-reflective standards for the professional Australian contemporary arts sector. These standards include good practice approaches to working relationships and payment rates for artists and arts workers. The Code of Practice also includes information about taxation, superannuation and accepted business protocols, which all contribute to artist and arts worker’s income. 

Visibility of initiatives that advocate for viable pay and income for artists and arts workers, like the Code of Practice, are gathering support within the sector from both independent and government organisations. Organisations are now working towards adjusting and improving their business practices and the sector is seeing steady improvement in adherence to legal obligations like superannuation for independent artists and arts workers. Furthermore, the boost in visibility of good practice is now leading to many organisations aligning their policy with their ethics, enshrining minimum payment standards within policy.

Read more about fair pay issues and unpaid labour in the Code of Practice.

Read more about payment standards for artists and arts workers in the Code of Practice.

Find out more

Discover more about exhibitions and showing your work in the following Code of Practice chapters:

Find NAVA resources about artists income:



Write a letter to your local MP calling for fair pay for artists based on the Code of Practice minimum standards of pay and the government to implement a compulsory artist fee policy in all schools. Use NAVA’s Advocacy Toolkit and the policy examples below to inform the structure and content of your writing.

Examples of Artist Fee Policies

Tips for writing a meaningful advocacy letter:

  • Make it yours: Describe your work in your own words. Personalised letters get noticed. 
  • Be passionate: What does your art practice mean to you? What does Australia’s contemporary arts scene mean to you? Write with clarity and passion.
  • Don’t risk being ignored: Offensive or abusive messages don’t get taken seriously and completely undermine your efforts. Treat this letter as seriously as you want all artists to be treated.

About Art is a Real Job

Art is a Real Job was a national program throughout March 2023 that invited artists to share how good industry practice helped shape their careers and navigate the art world with confidence. The program dissected and championed NAVA’s new Code of Practice via four artist-led online events, including workshops, studio tours and panel conversations for secondary school student artists, educators and pre-service educators.

Exhibiting Your Work

Artists Thomas Readett, April Phillips, Tim Meakins

Host Alise Hardy | Support Emma Pham

Hero image artwork Emma Pham

Progradm Manager Alise Hardy

Ethics and Environmental Responsibility

Artists Annika Romeyn, Carly Tarkari Dodd, Sally Craven

Host Alise Hardy | Support Emma Pham

Hero image artwork Emma Pham

Program Manager Alise Hardy

Working with Galleries

Artists Sam Gold, Nikki Lam, Lisa Sammut

Hosts Penelope Benton, Emma Pham | Support Alise Hardy

Hero image artwork Emma Pham

Program Manager Alise Hardy

Money Matters

Artists Kay Abude, Rachel Burke, Ryan Presley

Hosts Emma Pham, Georgie Cyrillo

Hero image artwork Emma Pham

Program Manager Alise Hardy


Resource written by Alise Hardy.

First published in June 2023 by National Association for the Visual Arts as part of the Art is a Real Job.

Art is a Real Job is supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.

NAVA logo and Copyright Agency logo in black and white