Tax reform for Australian artists
Written by: Evan LowensteinIn the previous edition of Lowensteins’ Newsletter, we advocated a radical need to reform the tax system as it affects Australian artists. We have had positive feedback about this suggested reform from several clients in the arts community, who have joined us in believing that there is a need for some renewed thinking in the implementation of tax policy and the arts.
So, as promised, we are pleased to release statistics to support our claim that the visual arts in Australia is suffering enormously from economic hardship. We believe that a lot of this has come about because of a declining interest by collectors in acquiring artwork.
The overall downturn in the art market has, I believe, been caused by a combination of compounding factors: the negative effect of significant legislative changes to the superannuation laws, the introduction of resale royalties and, of course, a decline in the level of government support and funding – all coinciding with an overall economic downturn due to the GFC.
Lowensteins‘ extensive arts data base maintains historical data going back some fifteen years. It shows income of some 3000 practising artists across all disciplines and media. Our observations about the current financial plight of Australian artists is borne out by a real decrease in artists’ income.
For the purposes of this research, we analysed anonymous data that looked at three classes of artists. We have named this study: The Lowenstein Index.
THE LOWENSTEIN INDEXWe have divided up the sample into three groups:
1. Established Artists
This group of artists includes many who are household names ie those who have been involved in selling and exhibiting commercially for many years.
They are considered senior artists and many are mentors to a younger generation of artists. 2. Mid – Career Artists
These are artists who would be considered to be in the prime of their career and have enjoyed commercial success for several years.
A major characteristic of these artists is that they still need to rely on a source of additional income – be it from teaching or other art related occupational groups – in order to earn a living wage and support the costs of their practice.
3. Emerging artists
These artists have only recently come on to the commercial scene in the last 5-10 years or so. Most of them have had some art training at tertiary institutions. They are part of the emerging art scene, and some have participated in artists-run spaces and shared studios.
MethodologyWe have drawn up a list of a substantial number of artists from all three classes from our data base, then analysed anonymous data, including gross sales over a seven year period, between 2010 and 2017.
These figures indicate the trend in artists’ incomes, subject to some minor statistical errors.
Lowensteins does not represent every artist in Australia but this research represents a fair sample on which to base further study.