Rant 47: Alternative Funding Strategies

Rant 47: Alternative Funding Strategies Elly Clarke, Alternative Funding Strategy: Trans Siberia, 2005-2006. Single edition 6"x4" colour photographs then postcards. Limited ed. set of 21 postcards 10cm x 15cm

Is it time for artists to start finding alternative funding strategies? Could making commercial work to fund non-commercial output release artists from the funding crisis? David Trigg thinks there are ways to fund individual artists that don't involve the Arts Council.

Commenting recently on the impending cuts to arts funding, artist and curator Cathy Lomax suggested that, as a result, people without privileged backgrounds will no longer be able to make art [1]. 

But can artists really not operate successfully unless they are either moneyed or awarded public funding?

Lomax's supposition implies that artists do not earn much from their work.

There are, however, many (un-moneyed) artists who maintain their practices without public funding, supporting their art through sales of work.

Lomax's contention, then, surely rings truer for artists whose work is less commercial.

Perhaps it is time for these artists to stop relying on government money altogether and to start engaging with the market to develop more sustainable models of practice.

When, in the early 1920s, Piet Mondrian was faced with poor sales of his abstract paintings he resorted to selling paintings of flowers to supplement his income.

Could the production and sale of more commercial work to facilitate less commercial endeavours be a viable alternative to schemes such as Arts Council England's Grants for the Arts?

But if, for some, engaging with the market seems too hard to stomach then consider the example of Oliver Herbert, a contemporary artist who has established his own foundation as a means to raise funds for specific large-scale projects.

By approaching friends and family and asking for small donations (£3 per share in the foundation) in return for commissioned art works, Herbert has even managed to raise enough capital to fund a residency in China.

Whether we accept it or not, cuts are inevitable (regardless of how many petitions are signed).

Artists must seek radical alternatives, though whether or not this can be achieved without compromising artistic integrity remains to be seen.

Incidentally, Mondrian's flower paintings are now almost as celebrated as his abstract De Stijl work.

[1] http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/tom-699/funding-cuts-the-impact-on-culture-in-london-3544/ 

Contributed by David Trigg

David Trigg is an art writer based in Bristol. He is a member of the International Association of Art Critics and a regular contributor to Art Monthly, a-n, MAP, Art Papers and frieze.com. His writing has also been featured in Art Review, Untitled, Circa, Flash Art International and Metro. David gained his degree in Fine Art from Bath School of Art and Design in 2001 and has since worked as Reviews Editor for Bristol arts publication Decode, as well as holding positions at the Arnolfini Gallery and the University of Bristol. 

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