Where, then, does the idea come from, that the artists should work for free?

Conversation with Rainer Fuchs, chief curator in MUMOK museum Vienna.

Rainer Fuchs wrote, 7/3/09 to me

Dear Franc Purg,

Allow me to contact you regarding an exhibition MUMOK is currently preparing on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the iron curtain in autumn 1989. This exhibition with the title "Gender Check" is curated by Bojana Pejic and initiated by Erste Foundation. It is going to map social constructions of femininity and masculinity in Eastern European Art since the 1960s. It will cover 30 years of state-Socialism and the Post-Communist period. This is the first time that art produced during state-Socialism and the following decade is examined from feminist and gender perspective. The exhibition will present a large number of visual representations (paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, posters, video works, performance, and reproductions of public monuments) from about 140 artists. Both the exhibition and the accompanying publications (catalogue and reader) will demonstrate how visual representations contributed to the constitution of gender roles in State-Socialism and it will also point to the changes in gender identities after the fall of communist regimes. The exhibition will be opened in Vienna on the 24th of September 2009 and will last until the 31st of January 2010. Enclosed you find the conception of the exhibition.

We kindly want to ask you to lend us one of your works

Avto Portrait (Self-Portrait), 1997, Video

We would of course handle the piece with utmost care and guarantee for professional arthandling.

Since this is an extensive project and we are already a little late, I dear to ask you - hoping you agree to lend your work - to tell me the address and insurance value for sending you the loan contract and for insuring the work.

We will also be very grateful, if you can provide us with digital data or illustration materials, which we can use for the reproductions in the catalogue. Your contribution and your cooperation would help us to realize a successful project which gives a new and more refined perspective on a crucial chapter of art history.

If you have any questions please donīt hesitate to contact us. Thanking you in advance for your interest and your cooperation we remain

Rainer Fuchs
Chief Curator

Claudia Dohr
Exhibition organization

Franc Purg wrote, 7/6/09 to Claudia Dohr and Rainer Fuchs

Dear Rainer Fuchs and Claudia Dohr,

Thank you for your invitation to participate in the Gender Check exhibition at MUMOK. I am very happy to participate in this exhibition.

AvtoPortrait contains three elements: a video, photographs, and a 2-metre long red Ferrari car (like a child's toy but with concrete cube wheels). I suggest for the Gender Check exhibition we show the video together with the Ferrari object.

See images here:


I would like that the video is projected (and not on a video screen) and that we place this object close to the projection, with a small red spot light.

I am happy to participate, but because Avtoportret is part of my professional work, I would require an artist fee of 1000 Eur for my participation.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Franc Purg

Dohr, Claudia - wrote 7/6/09

Dear Franc Purg,

Thank you very much for your reply and for agreeing to lend the work for the exhibition. Thank you also for the information on the work, I will talk about it with Bojana Pejic and come back to you as soon as possible.

Best wishes

Claudia Dohr

Franc P - wrote 8/1/09 to Claudia Dohr and Rainer Fuchs

Dear Claudia and Rainer Fuchs

I am wondering if you have any news regarding my participation in the exhibition - as I have not heard anything since the 6th of July.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


Franc Purg

Dohr, Claudia - wrote 8/3/09

Dear Franc Purg,

Thank you for contacting me again, we certainly would like to have your work in the exhibition and as I mentioned Bojana wanted to contact you . She currently is still writing her text and she will mai you in the next 10 days. As the exhibition is very large, there is about 200 artists participating, the Museum postponed the exhibition to the 11.12. 2009 - 14.02. 2010. With the shifting we were wble to get additional exhibition area for "GENDER - CHECK".

I hope this changes do not interfere with you, and lending your work.

Best wishes and hear you soon


Franc P - wrote 9/18/09 to Claudia Dohr and Rainer Fuchs

Dear Claudia and Rainer Fuchs

I was recently contacted by Tena Razumovic, from Kunsttrans Zagreb, to arrange the collection of my work, Self- Portrait for the exhibition. However, I have still not received any answer from Bojana regarding my participation in the exhibition and my requested fee.

In any case I am currently away from Slovenia until the end of the month.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Franc Purg.

Rainer Fuchs wrote. 9/18/09 to me, Claudia

Dear Franc Purg,

thank you for your message. Bojana is still very busy with the catalogue texts and so she asked us to get in contact with you concerning your installation for Gender Check. As you already know it is a big show with a very compound number of works. And although we extended the exhibition space we still have to fight to have enough space for 250 artists and more than 400 pieces. Therefore we already had to cancel some bigger installations and site specific works. In your case we have to ask you to leave out the Ferrari object, because we really donīt see any possibility to exhibit it under the mentioned circumstances. We hope for your understanding and remain

with kind regards

Rainer Fuchs


Franc P wrote , 9/18/09 to Rainer, Claudia

Dear Rainer,

Thank you for your email. I understand that you have many artists to fit into the exhibition and are limited for space. Therefore it is not a problem to show only the video. But I would like to know how you will display the video.

Also, I am still waiting for your answer regarding my required fee of 1000 euro.



Rainer Fuchs wrote. 9/22/09 to me, Claudia

Dear Franc Purg,

thank you for your reply. Because of our space situation it would be the best to show the video on flat screen or monitor together with the photograph. Concerning your question about the fee I am sorry to say that our budget and the high number of artists doesnīt allow us to pay fees. We hope for your understanding and we are very thankful for your kind cooperation.

Best regards,

Rainer Fuchs , Chiefcurator

Franc P wrote, 9/28/09 to bo.pejic, Urska, Rainer, Claudia

Dear Rainer Fuchs

Gender Check is an exhibition that will show 250 artists from Eastern Europe in a Western institution. There is no question that many other people are involved in the production of such a huge project – from photographers, designers, drivers, caterers, installers, cleaners, curators, and the directors of the institution – and it is obvious that all these people will be paid.

Where, then, does the idea come from, that the artists should work for free? Why did the organisers decide to allocate the budget to include a fee for everyone except the artists? Why should artists work as volunteers? Perhaps it stems from a romantic, old-fashioned idea that artists – and in particular non-western artists – have to be poor, and grateful to have their work shown in a prestigious Western institution.

The organisers and curators of the biggest museum of modern and contemporary art in Austria and the whole of Central Europe have accepted the neoliberal capitalistic system that allows for the legal exploitation of others wherever possible. As is stated on the Mamuk website, “Art is profitable” – particularly when you get it for free.

For these reasons I have chosen to decline your invitation to participate in the Gender Check exhibition and to support a system that is based on exploitation.

Franc Purg

Fuchs, Rainer Fuchs wrote, 9/29/09 to me, Claudia, Bojana

Dear Purg Franc,

we would very much regret not to have you in the exhibition, because your work is crucial to the subject of the show. There are a lot of arguments from your side which I understand completely, nevertheless each exhibition is a kind of investment which in the end enables also the artist to profit from participations. That is one of the reasons why normally fees are not paid to artists in exhibitions, unless they are performing and their works have not that kind of visual presence which fine art otherwise has. But as I learned you would of course not accept our arguments. Nevertheless I donīt have the possibility to pay artist fees under the precondition of the number of artists we have in the show. I still hope for your understanding.

Best regards,

Rainer Fuchs