CONVENTION PARIS – SLOVAKIA
We are not satisfied – the same like most of you – with the situation of artists in our country. It can be said that – from the point of view of social and legal conditions – the situation of artists in Slovakia is worse than it was about 20 years ago. A few examples:
We have no specific fiscal system for artists in Slovakia now. We had – years ago – for example a very special tax rate for artists with small income: tax rate for them was only 5 %.
Now we have flat rate tax of 19% for everybody and artists even have to pay 2% more. This fee is not precisely tax, but artists are the only group in Slovakia with this obligation and this 2% are in fact even more than 2% if we compare it with tax: tax is generally paid from income minus expenditures; this 2% fee is paid from full income without possibility to use expenditures. So artists in reality have to pay – depending on their specific situation – much more than other people: tax with this specific fee only for artists can make together 21% – 24 % or even 29 % of their income!
We have no specific fiscal measures to support art production. The purchase of the works of art is not eligible to be listed in the tax expenditures. That is from our point of view discrimination. Artists in our country – despite the differences in the nature of their activities – are generally treated in the same way as far as taxes and social security are concerned, as the entrepreneurs or businessmen who produce goods for sale. However the product of artists – a work of art – is, unlike other purchased goods, not considered to be an item that could be used for the tax deduction. This discriminatory provision clearly handicaps works of art, it discourages the potential customers, slows down the art market and it reduces the chances of an artist to make living through his/her production.
The system of social security in the Slovak republic does not include a specific subsystem of social security for the artists. Artists have only one exception: if their financial situation does not enable them to do so, they do not have to contribute to the social security system. On the other hand, it means that they are not eligible for the benefits of the system, which may seriously influence their position, especially in retirement.
Support of art in public buildings
Yeas ago we had a rule that – when public buildings were built – 2% from all budget had to be used for visual art. Something like that exists now in many countries (Norway – 3%, Island – 1%, f. e.). Actually we have nothing like that.
Support of art and culture generally
The support of art and culture on the part of the state shrink from year to year. It was about 0.9% of GDP 15 years ago in Slovakia, 0.6% of GDP 5 years ago and about 0.5 % of GDP a year ago.
On the other hand, there is also positive example – grant system of Ministery of Culture for supporting of art projects. Something like that did not exist 20 years ago. But some problems are generally discussed between artists: if the budget for art projects is big enough (it is connected with support of art generally – see in the text) and especially every year problems with support of art project in the first half of the year.
We can say that in the last two years we have tried to start a discussion with the responsible members of the government about the situation of artists in our country. We have done it together with the representatives of other branches of art – musicians, actors, writers and so on. A representative meeting was held in December with the presence of the State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and her team, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and his team, a Member of Parliament and representatives of artists. We were promised that also a responsible member of the Ministry of Finance will join us next time. So we can see a chance to do something for the improvement of the situation of artists in our country – at least good will was shown by the participants of the discussion.
The whishes of improvement of the visual artists’ status
If we are persuaded that something should be done for improvement of the visual artists’ status, it is important not only to say WHAT we want, but also WHY.
There might be many answers; I would like to offer at least 3, which are in my opinion the most important ones.
- Culture – same as education and health – cannot be measured only from the point of view of money. Society without culture or education or health would be a society with no future, even if it was a very rich society.
- Art and culture should be supported by state, because questions of art and culture cannot be decided only by market: market is very often wrong, especially in the area of contemporary art. The “market” of his time did not recognize that Rembrandt was a genius, “market” ignored Vincent van Gogh all his life, “market” did not want even the Eiffel Tower at the beginning – people did not like it, only later they got used to it and now it is impossible to imagine Paris without its symbol.
A very great part of the cultural heritage of mankind would never have been created without the support of state: pyramids of Egypt, the statue of David or the painting of the Sistine Chappell by Michelangelo, to name just a few.
- At last but not at least, the support of art and culture is not a waste of money but a good investment of money.
Art and culture are really not just a matter of entertainment or luxury. They are very important also from the point of view of economy: contrarily to the general opinion their contribution to the development of countries is not marginal.
For illustration, a few numbers from The Economy of Culture in Europe (a study prepared for the European Commission a Directorate-General for Education and Culture in October 2006):
– The cultural and creative sector turned over more than € 654 billion in 2003; this number says much more to us if we compare it with the car and ICT industry:
– the turnover of the car manufacturing industry was only € 271 billion in 2001 – the turnover generated by ICT manufacturers was € 541 billions in 2003
– The sector contributed to 2.6 % of EU GDP in 2003. This number is also much more interesting when comparing it with some kinds of industry:
– the textile industry accounted for 0.5% of contribution to EU GDP
– the food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing sector accounted for 1.9% of contribution to EU GDP
– real estate activities accounted for 2.1% of contribution to EU GDP
– the chemicals, rubber and plastic products industry accounted for 2.3% of contribution to EU GDP
– The overall growth of the sector´s value added was 19.7% in 1999-2003. The sector´s growth in 1999-2003 was 12.3% higher than the growth of he general economy
– In 2004 5.8 million of people worked in the sector. Whereas total employment in the EU decreased in 2002-2004, employment in the sector increased (+1.85%)
– 46.8 % of workers in the sector have at least university degree (against 25.7 % in total employment)
So I thing we can agree with one of the results of this study: “The cultural and creative sector is a growing sector, developing at a higher pace than the rest of the economy”. Maybe we could ask even a (little provocative?) question: who supports whom – the state culture or culture the state? If we compare contribution of culture and the creative sector to EU GDP (2.6%) with the support of art and culture by state in European countries (in Slovakia currently about 0.5% of GDP) – it really looks like the state gets more from the culture than it gives to the culture…
So – cultural and creative sector as a whole is in good condition, but the most important part of it – the artists, without whom this sector cannot exist – are not in good “condition” at all. It can be said that in European countries artists are generally in worse situation than people in other professions, if we compare groups with the same level of education, duration of their activities and so on (see: The Status of Artists in Europe, a study requested by the European Parliament’s committee on Culture and Education, completed in November 2006, author European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research, Bonn, and others.)
That is why we are persuaded that something for the improvement of the situation should be done. We hope that the organizers of the Convention in Paris with the support of the delegates from European countries will be able to set up recommendations. Because no recommendation would be the worst recommendation. It would be a chance for the governments and parliaments in our countries to say: “You don´t know what you want, so please come (10 days? 10 months? 10 years?) later when you really find it up.”
There are many differences between European countries but the main problems of artists are very similar. Maybe it is possible to find solutions (if only at a very minimal level). It will be the very important step for improving the situation of artists and art.
Examples of necessary improvement of the visual artists’ status
A/ The support of art and culture on the part of state – we suggest to find an agreement about minimal level of support in % of GDP – (at least 1%?)
B/ Specific fiscal measures to support art production:
– purchase of the works of art should be eligible to be listed in the tax expenditures
– state support for the companies which invest to the art and culture
– specific fiscal system for artists because of differences in nature of their activities
C/ Specific system of social insurance for artists
Artists need specific system of social insurance and specific fiscal system because of many differences in nature of their activities. One example: People generally work if they are paid for it but artists work very often without getting money for it. Can you imagine that a pianist would stop playing the piano because he has no concert this month? Artists have to “train” all their life and many of their artistic activities do not lead to sale.
D/ Support of art in public buildings
Something like that exists in many countries (see in the text)