Learn more about visual arts support by exploring the latest statistics on public and private support.

Get the facts on the role of grants in supporting visual artists to continue their creative practice.

Government support
Support  -  Visual Arts

Government funding of $330 million ensures art museums can open their doors for free to over 10 million visitors a year. This represents a cost of $0.04 per Australian per day.

Visual arts organisations also lead the arts sector in generating private sector support for their work, generating 24% of the $221 million donations and sponsorship earned by the arts in 2009-10.

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After several periods of growth public funding for visual arts has declined slightly

The ABS reports that funding for visual arts fell slightly in real terms between 2009-10 and 2010-11. Whilst local government funding levels were not reported in 2010-11, funding from the Australian and State/Territory Governments declined 7 percent to $324.7 million.

In 2009-10, when fuller data was available, ABS figures show government funding for visual arts at the national, state and local levels was almost $400 million. This represented six percent of total cultural funding and was more than the funding received by other artform areas:

  • Visual arts – $398.3m (6.0 percent)
  • Theatre – $61.2m (0.9 percent)
  • Dance – $32.4m (0.5 percent)
  • Music – $160m (2.4 percent)
  • Literature – $48.8m (0.7 percent)

 

ABS statistics show that funding for visual arts and craft by the Australian, State and Territory and Local Governments has grown in several periods between 1994 and 2010 – with the first drop in funding being recorded in 2009-10. Small declines were seen in 2009-10 at the Local, State and Federal levels and in 2010-11 at the State and Federal levels.

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Australia’s art museums receive $330 of the $400 million in government funding for visual arts

Most funding for visual arts relates to Australia’s public art museums, including the major State art museums such as the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and other art museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and National Portrait Gallery. Government funding of $330 million was provided to art museums in 2009-10.

In 2009-10, $68.7m or 17 percent went to other parts of the visual arts sector, representing one percent of total cultural funding.

Table 8 - Government spending on visual arts and craft – all levels

Art museumsVisual arts and craftTotal funding
Australian Government ($m)90.130.6120.7
State & Territory Governments ($m)187.138.1225.2
Local Governments ($m)52.4-52.4
Total ($m)329.668.7398.3
Per person ($)15.583.117.83

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Australia Council provides over $15 million funding to the visual arts sector

In 2011-12, the Australia Council invested a total of $15.7 million in the visual arts and craft sector.

Of this, $4.9 million in funding was provided by the Visual Arts Board to support a range of activities including the creation of new work, the presentation and promotion of contemporary visual arts and craft, and professional development for practitioners.

The Arts Organisations Division administered $8.7 million funding for 39 visual arts organisations during 2011-12, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Association for the Visual Arts.

Almost $1 million was provided to young and emerging visual artists through the Art Start program.

A further $500,000 in funding for visual arts and craft was provided through the Arts Development Division to support the development of visual artists, curators and organisations. In particular, through the Arts Development Division, the Australia Council supported the representation of 42 Australian artists at international art fairs, including the Venice Biennale.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board provided $277,000 in grants funding, including for new work and for skills and arts development.

Key projects included the 18th Biennale of Sydney’s All our Relations showcase of more than 220 works by over 100 Australian and international artists, and Hatched – Perth Institute of Contemporary Art’s annual survey of the best of Australia’s art school graduates.

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Private sector support

Visual arts organisations generated $53 million in private sector support in 2009-10 – more than any other art form

In terms of philanthropy and sponsorship earnings, art galleries outperform other parts of the arts sector generating almost a quarter of total earnings.

In an AbaF survey of 318 arts organisations, it was estimated that $221 million in private sector support was generated by the arts in 2010-11. The visual arts generated $53 million of this amount.

Art galleries earn most of their support through philanthropic giving ($40 million), with sponsorship making up a smaller but still notable share ($11 million).

In contrast, visual arts, craft and design organisations participating in the survey were estimated to earn just $2 million in private sector support, and most of this was generated through sponsorship (increasing from $0.9 million in 2008-09 to $1.5 million in 2009-10).

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Visual arts organisations generate higher levels of private sector support than other arts organisations regularly funded by the Australia Council

Looking at organisations regularly funded through the Australia Council, visual arts organisations (including galleries, arts and craft centres, festivals and service organisations) earn well above other arts organisations from private revenue sources – although earnings in 2011 were lower[1] than 2010 levels.

In 2011, 40 surveyed visual arts organisations earned an average private sector income of $302,500 (compared with $360,000 in 2010), generating over $12 million in total.

However, ‘It’s a given’ found that earning levels were not uniform from organisation to organisation, and identified four visual arts organisations who earn 81.2 percent of total private sector support for visual arts.

This sample includes organisations operating on a biannual cycle, such as the Biennale of Sydney, which may influence the fluctuations in the data.

[1]   The overall decrease in private sector support for funded visual arts organisations has been driven by a decrease in corporate sponsorship for visual arts companies. This trend is consistent with a 20 percent decline in sponsorship revenues across the arts sector from 2010 to 2011.

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Role of grant funding

Grants are an important source of creative income for visual arts practitioners

According to Throsby and Zednik, an estimated 57 percent of visual artists and 60 percent of craft practitioners applied for a grant, prize or other funding between 2004 and 2009. This is higher than most other art forms (e.g. 24 percent of musicians, and 49 percent of dancers applied for a grant, prize or other funding). An estimated 1 in 3 visual artists (35 percent) and 2 in 5 craft practitioners (41 percent) were successful in their applications over the course of 5 years.

Earnings from grants, prizes and fellowships are a particularly important source of income for visual artists, making up an estimated 10 percent of their creative income. Although craft practitioners are among the most successful grant applicants across the artforms, earnings from grants, prizes and fellowships only make up 4 percent of their creative income since their creative income is higher.

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