How to survive with no income

Art businessTo the academy becomes it correct hard

For many visual artists it becomes a constant dilemma after their studies: If they have a job that they can make a living from, they don't have the time for art. If they don't have a job, they don't have the money to rent the studio, the material and, of course, to support themselves. A maximum of 10 percent can live from their work.

A maximum of 10 percent of all visual artists in Germany can make a living from their work. That is the sobering result of a survey that Hergen Wöbken from the Institute for Strategy Development carried out among Berlin artists in 2018. The figures correspond to studies on the economic situation of artists across Germany.

"A maximum of 10 percent can live from their work. For the rest, it's often a subsidy business."
Hergen Wöbken, Institute for Strategy Development

Without income and on your own

The situation for the next generation is particularly precarious, according to Hergen Wöbken Institute for Strategy Development. Because with the end of their studies, the structures of the academy fell away and the graduates were left to fend for themselves. There is no income, but at the same time the artists have to use the first five years to build their careers. This is how Hergen Wöbken sums up the various challenges.

External content

This leads to external content from a provider such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. If you load this content, personal data will be transferred to this platform and possibly other third parties. You can find more information in our privacy policy.

There are studio grants, residency programs and grants to support young artists. But these opportunities are rare and hardly anyone can make ends meet without a part-time job.

The sculptor Elisabeth Windisch has just made it. However, she also had to do a lot of bad jobs before that happened.

"Well, I did a really good job of scouring the ladder of dirty jobs ..."
Sculptor Elisabeth Windisch on her career

Now she works at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. A 20-hour contract leaves her time for sculpting and at the same time brings in enough money for the rent. She also runs an art space in downtown Cologne with five other artists. Here she exhibits her own work. This is extremely important for the graduates, because very few have a gallery owner. For this reason, it is important to find an alternative way of exhibiting and selling your own work.

External content

This leads to external content from a provider such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. If you load this content, personal data will be transferred to this platform and possibly other third parties. You can find more information in our privacy policy.

When Elisabeth had a part-time job as a temporary worker "on her dirty job", she kept thinking about giving up sculpture. Because on the one hand there is so much passion and knowledge in the job as a visual artist and on the other hand the plan to want to make a living from it keeps failing, says the sculptor.

"When you put so much energy, strength, and knowledge into your own position and always have the feeling that you are failing financially, then you have to ask yourself whether you don't want to think about an alternative path."
Elisabeth Windisch on the question of whether she can make a living from her art

Artistic freedom suffers from the conditions of production

And Hergen Wöbken from the Institute for Strategy Development is also convinced that artistic freedom often suffers under the production conditions. He advises academy graduates to concentrate on a few projects and to hold a maximum of four exhibitions a year. These exhibitions - Hergen Wöbken continues - should be designed in such a way that they help one's career. Something that lasts like documentation or a catalog is also important.

"That only has to be two, three, a maximum of four exhibitions a year. But you should make sure that it is something that will help you advance in your career."
Hergen Wöbken, Institute for Strategy Development

The sculptor Elisabeth Windisch would like to live permanently without financial insecurity. But - that much is certain for her today - never without art.