The Art World Plague of Unpaid Internships

In February, Occupy Wall Street’s Arts & Labor working group issued a call on the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) to stop issuing ads for unpaid internships. Yet NYFA continues to publish the postings and why shouldn’t they, they’re everywhere. The art world is plagued by these unpaid positions that allow individuals from wealthier backgrounds to benefit from getting their foot in the door, while individuals who can’t afford the privilege of working for free — and it is a privilege — aren’t given the opportunity. When institutions and companies offer unpaid internships properly, the interns benefit from the experience and use it to supplement their education. An excellent unpaid internship is a mini-education, not a replacement for an employee.

So, that’s why this posting for an intern blogger at the Family Business gallery was troubling. Founded by former New Museum director Massimiliano Gioni and Italian art star Maurizio Cattelan, I thought it was odd that they would be seeking an intern for a position like this. The Artinfo blogger, Ben Sutton, even joked that he would be applying, along with his colleagues, but something didn’t seem right. I thought I’d test the waters and see if the position was paid or not. When I shot off an email this am to the email address listed I received this response:

No golden coins at family:( sorry:(

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

You’re telling me that a multimillionaire art star and his superstar curator/director cohort can’t afford to pay a blogger for a gallery?

Thankfully, there are signs that the “party” for unpaid internships — at least outside the art world — are coming to an end, and it’s about time.

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