But some, like Gary Taxali, were not impressed. Mr. Taxali, an illustrator based in Toronto whose work has appeared in publications like Time, Newsweek and Fortune, received a call in April from a member of Google’s marketing department. According to Mr. Taxali, the Google representative explained that the project will let users customize Google Chrome pages with artist-designed “skins” in their borders.
“The first question I asked,” Mr. Taxali said in a recent interview, “is ‘What’s the fee?’”
Mr. Taxali said that when he was told Google would pay nothing, he declined.
In the ensuing weeks, a tide of indignation toward Google swelled among illustrators, who stay connected through Drawger, a Web site.
In a posting to Drawger on April 28, Mr. Taxali bemoaned the Google request — and that some struggling publications were reducing fees to illustrators by nearly half.
“So for you, I give you a special salute that I hope will keep you away because I don’t need your work,” Mr. Taxali wrote, followed by his own drawing of a hand gesture popular with impatient motorists.
The posting drew more than 200 responses, many from other illustrators who also had rejected Google’s offer, including Joe Ciardiello, of New Jersey, whose pen drawings of authors appear frequently on the cover of The New York Times Book Review.
“You’d think that if anyone can afford to pay artists and designers it would be a company that is making millions of dollars,” Mr. Ciardiello said in an interview.
In the first quarter of this year alone, Google reported profits of $1.42 billion, an increase of 8 percent over the same period last year.
In many other countries it's taken as read that artists get a fee when showing work in publicly-funded exhibitions. In Poland, for example, artists are paid a fee linked directly to the average working wage and can negotiate from there. In Norway, they are paid according to number of works and duration of the exhibition; in Canada, artists' rights for payment when their work is used in exhibitions are legally enshrined.
Relationships between artists and Britain’s publicly-funded galleries are at breaking point, according to a-n the artists’ advocacy and information organisation, which has discovered that more than 70% of artists are not paid for contributing their work to publicly-funded exhibitions. A survey of more than 1,000 artists, ranging from recent graduates to those shortlisted for the Turner Prize, found 63% have turned down offers from galleries to exhibit their work because they can’t afford to work for nothing. More than half report not even being paid expenses.
The so-called golden age of arts funding has given way to debilitating austerity, particularly for artists who find themselves at the end of a long food chain, divorced from arts funding and policy decision making. But when did these divisions start and how can artists use activism to create meaningful change for the future?
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