DebtFair is a project of Occupy Museums and friends. It’s a series of experimental market-actions to address the massive debt crisis in art today. Decentralized, on- and off-line, crossing institutional hierarchies in both public and private spaces, artists contextualize their work within the narratives of their actual economic lives. Collectors receive artwork in exchange for checks directly to the artist’s loaning banks.
In DebtFair, Art = Liberation.
We are calling on all artists and art lovers affected by the debt crisis or passionate to support a sustainable arts future to get involved in DebtFair. Please visit www.debtfair.org and sign up to share your story, exhibit your art, and help build it from the ground up.
Overall student debt has tripled since 2004, while defaults have soared 36% in the last year alone. And so, as the top of the art market booms, a generation of artists and art workers — the “roots” of the cultural ecosystem — is sinking deep into debt. Many begin their professional art journeys walking out of higher education owing six figures they are not likely to repay with precarious jobs and internships.
Many players are involved. Universities continue to advertise increasingly expensive MFAs and banks freely offer government-backed loans which artists willingly accept, sold on illusionistic free-market ambitions. Meanwhile, wealthy collectors collude with 1% galleries and auction houses to skim the cream off of this debtors system, turning a cold shoulder to the harsh economic reality of the 99%. We are experiencing a big bubble here: the art world has become one giant debt fair, and the 1% of the 1% are its only beneficiaries.
It’s time to create our own alternatives; we need a sustainable cultural bailout.
How it works:
This Summer, we’ll stage a meetup where artists interview each other about their debt. This information will go on our website alongside responses to our call for new statistics about the debt crisis in the arts, creating an intellectual context rooted in economic reality rather than luxury escapism.
In September, DebtFair will hit the streets of New York City. The fair is decentralized, mapped as a layer onto the city and connected through unique booths, maps, and performances. Artists themselves will design the innovative booths to cross the lines of institutional hierarchies as well as public and private spaces. Audiences and collectors will find booths within art galleries, non-profit spaces, sidewalks, bank lobbies, private homes, bodegas, and studios. The artists will be present at the fair to discuss their work and their economic lives. When a collector wants to support an artist’s work through real interaction, they write a check directly to the loaning bank in exchange for art. We encourage offerings of work at many levels from small Kickstarter gift-like amounts to help spread the love, to pieces that trade for complete debt bailouts.
In December, DebtFair will exhibit in a 5000 square foot space in Miami’s art foundation district, offering an alternative to the most vulgar of art fairs, Art Basel Miami Beach. It is time to return a sense of agency to artists and people who truly love art – a safe place for those not interested in what Kim Kardashian is doing over the weekend.
We can support artists and institutions who contribute to public culture rather than “Friezing” art into assets where the very few benefit at the expense of the many. It’s time to model a sustainable cultural bailout. Mutual aid is the exchange rate of a sustainable future.