Since Working Artists and the Greater Economy, better known as W.A.G.E., rolled out its certification program in 2014 to commit arts nonprofits to pay artists fairly, 50 arts institutions across the United States have signed up. None, however, are entire museums, which have largely shown the greatest resistance to W.A.G.E. certification.
To gradually improve the compensation standards of large art institutions, W.A.G.E. has chosen to bend one of its cardinal rules that requires whole organizations, rather than exhibitions, to be certified. Today, it announced that the Carnegie Museum of Art received certification for its forthcoming Carnegie International, as a way to “approach the reform of large institutions brick by brick,” according to a press release. Held every five years, the exhibition is the first biennial-style exhibition to become W.A.G.E. Certified. The 57th edition will open on October 12, 2018 and run through March 25, 2019.
“Like last year’s certification of Open Space, a department of SFMOMA, we wish to again demonstrate that where there is political will within museums by determined institutional actors, it can be done,” W.A.G.E. writes.
According to W.A.G.E. standards, each participating artist in next year’s Carnegie International is guaranteed a fee of at least $1,500. The Carnegie Museum’s annual operating expenses far exceed $5 million, and W.A.G.E. uses a scaling mechanism to calculate equitable compensation for artists that is directly proportional to an organization’s financial means.
“The decision by the Carnegie International to guarantee evenly distributed remuneration is a rebuke of speculation as a form of payment in the nonprofit sector,” W.A.G.E. writes. “It is also an affirmation of art’s value as a common good — one to which both the labor of artists and institutions contribute, and which both must collectively work to maintain.”