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The Art World is unquestionably unfair, unsustainable and even unethical, not supporting the creatives, artists and art workers with solidarity. But can we reshape the arts?

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The Art World has always been accepted – criticised but accepted as if the deep-rooted problems of this field could never be changed.

Shining a new light on many of our institutions, have we come to see some indisputable issues as less unchangeable than we thought? Have we started to pay more attention to the alternatives in the Art World?

What are the problems which need to be addressed? Artists living below the poverty threshold, young professionals with multiple degrees struggling to build a career, the dividing reality of elitist and exclusive institutions from which only a few benefit…

One research and developed project has recently published its results shedding light on specific areas: RESHAPE. Bringing different arts organisations from Europe and the South Mediterranean together to create innovative models to answer production, distribution and presentation problems in contemporary art practices. The project addressed five specific topics: the value of art in social fabrics, fair governance models, art and citizenship, transnational/ post-national artistic practice and economies based on solidarity.


RESHAPE, RESHAPE Timeline, 2019-2021, Courtesy of reshape.network


All point to the urgency and complexity of the situation: the Art World is unquestionably unfair, unsustainable and even unethical. It does not support creatives, artists and art workers with solidarity. And the problems are deeply embedded.

In the silence and stillness caused by the pandemic, we have all started to look at the world which surrounds us. Even though many areas are delicate and still greatly undisputed, I like to think that the pandemic did shift our fossilised perspectives letting us see the various alternatives and solutions which exist. 

How can we reshape the arts and make a real difference? As highlighted by the RESHAPE project, there is not a one-solution: many areas need to be addressed.

Nevertheless, some institutions have already been creating alternative models… What are the concrete realistic possibilities of renewal for the stagnating Art World?

The social media campaign Artist Support Pledge has drawn attention to the unsustainable situation for many artists, calling for an act of solidarity – and it has had a reverberating effect.

The digital transition has accelerated the essential role platforms can have, such as Kooness.com. Connecting galleries, artists and collectors across national and physical borders the possibilities, moving beyond the archaic exclusive structure of the Art World, are incredible. 


Charles Bird King, Poor Artist’s Cupboard, c.1815, Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art ©2021 National Gallery of Art, Washington


Gallery and artist residency Unit1 Gallery | Workshop has proposed the application Fair Art Fair which represents “a digital destination for artists, curators, art lovers as well as the art curious”, “removing exploitation”. Through a subscription model, Fair Art Fair gives access to invaluable tools and documents, empowering the artists.

The non-profit Dutch foundation The Artist and the Others, has developed a collaborative project which connects young professionals providing a network for emerging artists and opportunities to exhibit and gain international experience through ‘Breaking Boundaries’.

Like this last project, many institutions are starting to follow fair practice guidelines such as the Platform BK’s guideline for artist fees on Kunstenaarshonorarium.nl, or AWI Art Workers Italia’s recommendations.

However complex, intricate and impossible it may seem, we must support these efforts today and continue to revolutionise the arts by rebuilding a better Art World for tomorrow.


Raoul Hausmann, The Art Critic, 1919-1920, Courtesy of the Tate ©ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021.


Cover image: Guerrilla Girls, Woman In America Earn Only 2/3 Of What Men Do, 1985, Courtesy of the Tate ©courtesy www.guerillagirls.com

Written by Zoë Rivas Zanello

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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