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:

 

Fis­cal aspects

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.

 

Social insu­ran­ce

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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)