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What the Cost of Living Crisis Means for Artists

The (rising) price of keeping creativity alive

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the UK, you will have seen that these “unprecedented times” we’ve all been going through since the pandemic have spiralled downhill into a lovely equation of high inflation rates + impending recession = cost of living crisis. Sarcasm aside, the impact of this on society has and will continue to be devastating for so many people.

Artists are not left out of this issue, especially as the creative industry has double the amount of freelance and self-employed workers compared to the UK workforce. With many navigating this crisis solo, creatives have been left struggling to cover the rising costs of materials, studio spaces, and day-to-day living. Adding into the mix people spending less on non-essentials, companies lowering their budgets to work with creatives, and cuts to arts funding across the board – it’s not looking great for the art world.

Speaking with artist Lorella Bianco, they summed up how the cost of living crisis has been affecting them: “With everything being more expensive of course! Studios, materials, etc. aren’t affordable. With this, access to art suffers as well. Artists feel like they have to lower their prices or do work that will be more popular, which pushes them away from their work.”

It’s not only Lorella that is facing these issues but artists around the world are suffering from the impact of increasing costs and the dilemma of choosing between self-value and sales. This is why it’s more important than ever right now to support artists, especially independent and emerging creatives, and here at BRUSHWRK we’re looking to help.

The impact of increasing costs

You might not be interested in the numbers, but with inflation rates reaching highs of 10+% at the end of 2022 (in comparison to the Bank of England target of 2%), it’s not surprising that the cost of everything has skyrocketed through the roof. This has been influenced by the soaring cost of energy (which is an issue in itself for artists just wanting to power their homes and studios) causing day-to-day living costs to increasingly get more and more expensive.

It’s not just the cost of energy that has increased in price, but landlords (especially in London) seem to be upping rents like no tomorrow, making it even harder for artists to find affordable studios. These spaces are meant to be filled with creative expression and inspiration, not stress about paying rent and not wanting to turn the heating on!

Artists' dilemma: self-value vs. sales

With materials also increasing in price (thank you inflation), many artists are having to start making compromises. As Lorella mentioned: “Artists feel like they have to lower their prices or do work that will be more popular.” Creating work that you think will sell is always going to be part of the artistic process for those wanting to make a living from their art, but this should not be the sole driving force behind the artworks.

Artists facing the dilemma of choosing between making work they want versus work that sells will continue to be an issue as long as they need to increase their income to cover their increasing costs. With people looking to cut back on non-essential spending to balance out the rising prices of day-to-day things, artists might feel the pressure to lower the price of their work to attract more buyers.

Why independent artists need more support than ever

It’s no doubt art is a non-essential purchase but it is a shame that the current economic climate is affecting the livelihood and work of so many independent creatives. Buying art is not only a good investment for yourself, your space, and your mental health but by investing in emerging artists you’re directly supporting their career and helping to keep the creative industry alive (and not be taken over by corporations).

Although the major cuts to funding for arts education and institutions by the UK government is affecting many large institutions, this ends up trickling down to the independent artists who get commissioned, funded, and supported by these places. This is why it is so important to support emerging and local creatives directly when you can. Buy their work, support their Patreons, or simply share their work on social – there’s always something you can do at any cost.

How BRUSHWRK can help

Although the cost-of-living crisis doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, it’s no surprise that the art world’s system has needed to be shaken up for a while. With large institutions and galleries often taking between 30-60% commission from the sales of artworks, this leaves little room for artists to make a living off their work. There is also often a lack of transparency around how this commission physically supports the artists, apart from big name companies playing the “exposure” card.

Here at BRUSHWRK we only take a 5% fee from all works sold through the platform. This aims to help artists not feel they need to drive up their prices (we’re already in a cost-of-living crisis for goodness sake). We also believe artists shouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting, so this fee helps to cover the costs of marketing, shipping, networking, and more.

Get in touch with us at BRUSHWRK if you are an artist in need of support or to find out more about what we’re doing to help


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