REAL JOB (2023)

A two-part group exhibition across Counihan Gallery and Seventh Gallery in April 2023, curated by artist and artworker Madeleine Thornton-Smith.

Counihan Gallery: 1 April – 21 May, 2023 Opening: Saturday 1 April

Seventh Gallery: 6 – 28 April, 2023 Opening: Wednesday 5 April

The labour of visual artists is neglected in Australian society. Artists are asked what they do for their ‘real job’ – that is, what pays the bills? Artists and artworkers are frequently exploited due to the unregulated nature of the industry, insufficient funding and lack of union coverage. Peak body recommended rates of pay are routinely ignored. Many are nervous to criticise problematic institutional practices lest they ‘bite the hand that feeds them’. The federal government has promised that artists will be recognised as ‘workers’, but what does this entail?

Art is often considered separate from life, a trick that benefits those extracting profit from artists’ labour: if art isn’t work, then it doesn’t need to be remunerated. Artists in this two-part exhibition, across Counihan and Seventh Galleries are organisers, activists and workers, who believe art is work. Noel Counihan was an artist and activist who made art in response to economic hardship. What better time and place to discuss the value of artists’ labour?

Images (left): Judy Kuo, poster, 2023 (right): Nina Ross and Stephen Palmer, Union Banner, 2019-2020, cotton, dowelling, 175cm x 150cm.