Artquest uses research about visual artists working conditions, career barriers, and motivations to develop the professional information, advice and projects that they need.

We aim to increase understand amongst artists about the art world in which they operate, helping them find work, make work, sell work and network. Our programme is for professional artists at any stage in their careers, working in any medium.

We gather intelligence through our projects and surveys about how and why artists work through our projects, partnerships, wider visual arts activity, and from outside of the arts, creating new resources and insights. All of our activity learns from the art world in the context of the rest of the world to understand the wider issues, policies and politics that impact on the opportunities and threats facing arts practice in the UK. We use all this to build new projects with our partners to help artists meet their ambition.

2019 programme: WORK

In 2019 we take the theme of ‘work’ as the impetus for our research and projects, in particular the motivations and barriers artists face in their working lives, their attitudes to money, and their measures of success.

Artists already experience many of the features of work that futurists predict: needing to be highly motivated, surviving on low earnings, using decentralised workspaces, and maintaining highly mobile portfolio careers. They have been working in the ‘gig economy’ since well before the term was coined, and their experiences are now general.

From our research and that of partner organisations we know that artists’ attitude to work is atypical. Research suggests they are not motivated by profit, or even particularly by pay, and will subsidise their artistic practice through multiple other jobs, including jobs that have nothing to do with the arts. Few report having a pension, and a majority don’t see themselves retiring, as other workers do. Despite these negative economic factors, they overwhelmingly report high levels of wellbeing and agency, and think of themselves as serious professionals even when they don’t earn money – only 7% earn more than £20,000 a year in 2015 (for comparison, the 2018 National Minimum Wage would be £15,269 per year), with 36% earning under £1,000 from their practice. Many are from higher socio-economic backgrounds and are much more highly educated than the general population, even though they don’t need qualifications to be an artist.

We believe that how artists thrive in these challenging work environments now could hold clues for future working practices for all.

What we learned from previous years’ programme themes can be found in our Almanack, an annual publication bringing together research by us, our partners, and outside of the arts. Future proposed themes include EQUITY and SUCCESS.

Ongoing programme

Our thematic projects run alongside our regular programme of advice and informationseed funding for peer mentoring groups, monthly advisory studio visits, discounts on workshop facilities, free online legal advice, a free online studio exchange service, and various resources for new graduates and art school tutors.

We do not charge membership fees, our core services are provided free of charge, and many of our projects provide funding for artists development. The whole programme is delivered by three artists working part-time for Artquest, alongside around 80 freelance artists each year.

Artquest is a programme of University of the Arts London supported by funds from Arts Council England.

All of our content (except Artlaw) is distributed under a Creative Commons non-commercial, attribution, share-alike license.

To keep up to date, join our email newsletter or follow us on Twitter (use #artopps to hear about opportunities from us and our partners) Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube and SoundCloud.

Our staff

Nick Kaplony: after graduating from Camberwell College of Art and having worked as assistant curator at the Arts Gallery London and Pump House Gallery Nick joined the Artquest team in June 2007. Nick is a practicing artist and freelance curator. His areas of expertise include: education and community projects; exhibition marketing; curating; the public gallery sector; funding applications.

Russell Martin: a graduate of The Glasgow School of Art who has lived in London since 1998. Initially working in gallery education, his self-initiated projects include workshops, residencies, peer mentoring, artist-led galleries, radio programmes, and a series of interdisciplinary arts social events. Russell is also a member of the board at Block 336 and City and Guilds of London Art School, and is an advisor for PRAKSIS, an artist residency in Oslo. His areas of expertise include: peer mentoring projects; artist-led spaces; education and community projects; funding applications and general presentation skills; artists networks; negotiation.

Tom Pope: graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011 and has worked extensively in education and events before joining Artquest in September 2018. His areas of expertise include: gallery education, commissions, arts events, private funding and sponsorship. Tom’s artistic practice combines performative strategies with photography in a collaborative and playful manner, while additionally undertaking large scale participatory performance projects.

Front page image kindly provided by Michael Heeny.

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