Art Market

A survey of art world salaries revealed disparities between compensation at for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Benjamin Sutton
Jun 20, 2019 5:44PM, via POWarts

Courtesy POWarts.

Results of a salary survey conducted by POWarts (the Professional Organization for Women in the Arts) revealed that earning a Master’s degree has a negligible effect on art workers’ compensation. According to the study, which was released on Thursday and is based on information provided by 997 respondents to a POWarts survey, the median salary for an arts worker with a Master’s degree is $62,000, while arts workers with only a Bachelor’s degree have a median salary of $60,000. Post-graduate studies do pay off for arts workers with PhDs, though—their median salary is $73,500.

The survey findings also highlight distinctions between the nonprofit and for-profit sectors—museums and foundations on the one hand, and galleries and auction houses on the other. It found that starting salaries are slightly higher for workers at for-profit art spaces, who earn a median salary of $36,750, while the median starting salary at nonprofits is $35,500.

Sara Kay, the founder and chairman of POWarts (who is also a gallerist), told Artsy:

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that starting salaries in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors were generally comparable. That wasn’t my experience when I started my career. In the late 1990s, I was offered a non profit entry level position with a starting salary of $22,000. Less than a year later, when I entered the commercial sector, I was offered 30% more for essentially the same position.

Salaries for more experienced workers tend to be higher at for-profits, with the median salary for a worker with 15 to 20 years of experience reaching $92,500, compared to $75,000 for workers with comparable experience at nonprofits. The survey also showed a significant difference in compensation at the executive level, with for-profit executive-level workers earning a median salary of $132,500, compared to nonprofit executives’ median salaries of $100,000. Workers at for-profit art spaces are also far more likely to receive bonuses—48.43% of survey respondents at for-profit art spaces said their organizations offered bonuses, compared to 13.78% of nonprofit workers.

The salary survey, which is available in full on the POWarts website, comes at a moment when members of the art world have been pushing for greater compensation transparency—which was the impetus behind a public spreadsheet that recently circulated in the industry. It also coincides with a string of unionization efforts at major cultural institutions including the New Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Benjamin Sutton