Frieze New York Related Protests and Solidarity Actions Timeline

Arts & Labor has put together this timeline to help the public understand the series of direct actions and political events that led to Frieze New York going Union. This victory was the result of actions carried out by a broad solidarity network over time.

Mid April 2012District Council of Carpenters set up first picket line at Frieze New York sponsor Deutsche Bank at headquarters on 60 Wall Street.
May 4-7, 2012: Unions including District Council of Carpenters and Teamsters Joint Council 16 put up picket line at Frieze New York.
May 8, 2012: Occupy Museums erects Freedom Cage at Frieze, part of the 2nd Free Art for Fair Exchange.
Mid April 2013Unions put up second picket line at Frieze New York sponsor Deutsche Bank headquarters on 60 Wall Street.

April 17, 2013: Arts & Labor issues a statement of support to Teamsters Joint Council 16, IATSE Local 829, IATSE Local 1 and District Council 9 of Painters to demand that Frieze hire union and local labor.
April 17, 2013: Unions deliver a press conference on the steps of the City Hall.
May 1, 2013: As part of the May Day city-wide demonstration, Arts & Labor along with members 99 Pickets and Rude Mechanical Orchestra visit the Frieze office to demand that the art fair negotiate with the unions.
May 2, 2013: City Council holds a hearing about Frieze Art Fair. Unions, community groups, and a Arts & Labor member give testimony.
May 5, 2013: Arts & Labor renames Frieze New York Art Fair, Frieze New York RAT FAIR.
May 6, 2013: Arts & Labor issued a letter to participating artists, galleries and attendees, along with panelists speaking at Frieze New York programs. A handful of members from the arts community contact the Frieze organizers in support of union demands.
May 8, 9, 10 2013: Union Coalition sets up picket line once again. Politicians including John Lui, Melissa Mark Viverito and Scott Stringer attend rally.
May 9, 2013: Andrea Bowers posts a letter criticizing Frieze’s labor practices next to her work in Susanne Vielmetter and Kaufman Repetto’s booths. That night, the letter is removed without the artists consent.
May 10, 2013: Andrea Bowers letter is re-posted.
May 10, 2013: Suzanne Lacy and Nato Thompson give Teamsters and Arts & Labor 10 minutes during their panel to read a statement. Despite an initial agreement, Teamsters are not allowed to speak last minute, forcing Arts & Labor to deliver both statements.
May 11, 2013: Arts & Labor and members of 99 Pickets carries out a series of direct actions inside the fair to inform the public and participating galleries about Frieze’s labor practices. Tactics include leafleting, mic checks, air horns, rat masks, and t-shirts.
September 2013: Arts & Labor begins outreach to arts & community groups surrounding Randall’s Island.
October 3, 2013: Parks hearing convened by Melissa Mark Viverito with emphasis on Frieze. Viverito represents District 8 which is home to Randall’s Island. Teamsters and Carpenter unions testify.
November 5, 2013: Bill De Blasio elected Mayor

January, 2014: Melissa Mark Viverito named Speaker of City Council.
January, 2014: Teamsters reach out to Randall’s Island Park Alliance to inquire the status of Community Board involvement and timing of permits. Frieze hires Capalino & Company to represent them in discussion with Unions.
February 3, 2014: Artists spark a twitter storm around #strikefriezeny
February 28, 2014: Frieze New York and union negotiations become public. Arts & Labor further raises awareness through social media.
March 7, 2014: Arts & Labor meets with Frieze.
March 2014: Unions and Frieze continue to negotiate a contract.
April 9, 2014: Frieze New York announces it will hire union for the construction of the 250,000 square foot tent starting 2015.

Solidarity Wins! Frieze New York Goes Union

For Immediate Release
Contact: owsartsandlabor@gmail.com

Unions, including Teamsters Joint Council 16 and IATSE, reached an agreement with Frieze New York regarding its hiring practices. This year, the art fair will hire some union labor to construct the fair’s tent on Randall’s Island. Starting in 2015, Frieze New York has committed to hiring 100% union labor. We applaud Frieze’s effort in supporting fair labor practices and its long-term commitment to set an example for the rest of the industry.

Arts & Labor has stood in solidarity with the unions throughout this effort. Our tactics have included a series of direct actions both inside and outside the fair, a letter writing campaign, and the raising of awareness via social media. We also want to acknowledge the vital support of artists Suzanne Lacy and Andrea Bowers, curator Nato Thompson, and many others. We thank everyone who put their reputation on the line to create room for discussion when there was none and who created a platform for workers to speak up. We celebrate this victory as a step in the right direction toward a more just art industry and see it as an effective demonstration of the impact of solidarity networks.

While this as an essential step, we know it is not enough. There will still be many art workers who will be paid poorly and treated unfairly during the time that Frieze New York is in our city. We hope that this victory provides inspiration for all of us to continue to fight for better working conditions. For Arts & Labor, this emboldens us for the work ahead and in our goal of ending exploitation for all art workers.

The fact remains that the Frieze New York art fair is a for-profit, multimillion-dollar enterprise that takes place on city parkland surrounded by residential areas with household incomes that are less than half of the citywide median. We believe that Frieze has a responsibility to give back to our city in exchange for generating vast amounts of wealth that only benefits the very wealthiest collectors and investors on public park land. We will continue to engage Frieze in conversation about how they might redress the impact of their presence and contribute to the city beyond the false, “trickle-down” paradigm of tourist-oriented economic development.

In that spirit, Arts & Labor would like to invite you to our next public meeting for a full report back on this campaign and a discussion of where to go from here.

Join us!
Tuesday, April 15 , 7-9pm
33 W 14th Street (Basement), Manhattan

* Additionally, workers from Utrecht Art Supplies who recently voted to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union will also share their journey to victory.

Art Worker Survey 2014

ART WORKER SURVEY 2014
HAPPY HOUR  & LAUNCH PARTY
This Thursday, January 30, 6 – 8 pm

THE HALF KING, 505 West 23rd Street, New York

Arts & Labor has joined forces with the students and faculty at CUNY’s Murphy Institute to gather data on the working conditions of art workers in New York City. Join us to unwind after a long day of work, and enjoy a free drink from filling in the survey.

For more information, visit artsandlabor.org/artworkersurvey.
Feel free to email us with any questions: artsandlaborsurvey@gmail.com.
RSVP is helpful but not required.

Screening and Discussion: Detroit, a City in Transformation

January 22, 7:30 pm at the Brecht Forum

Brooklyn Commons 388 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn

Join Arts and Labor Alternative Economies for a Screening of Paper Tiger Television‘s Rerooting the Motor City: Notes on a City in Transformation followed by round table discussion with
Matt Birkhold
Executive Director at The Brecht Forum, Co-founder at Growing Roots, National Organizing Committee at James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
Amaka Okechukwu
Co-founder of Growing Roots, and Doctoral Candidate of Sociology at New York University
Reg Flowers
Actor, Producer, Director, Playwright, Co-learning Facilitator, Grassroots Organizer

Rerooting the Motor City: Notes on a City in Transformation
From food deserts, to the plans to “rightsize” the city, how are Detroiters responding to the localized failures of post-industrial global capitalism? How are they re-mediating the frontier mythologies perpetuated by the mainstream media that complement “creative class” policy promotion? With a critical lens on race and class dynamics, this documentary weaves together segments on Detroit’s labor history, the budding urban agriculture movement, a critical look at philanthro-capitalism and its relationship to redevelopment as well as media (mis)representations of a city in transformation.

Save the Date: Alternatives Fair Oct 18th & 19th

Alternative Economies What Do We Do Now? Alternative Fair Oct 18-19

Save the date!

What Do We Do Now?
Arts & Labor Alternatives Fair

October 18th & 19th
Friday 6-9PM – OPENING EVENTS
Saturday 12-4PM – TABLES + MORE…

EYEBEAM 540 W 21st St, NYC
Free / Wheelchair accessible / Childcare available (please inquire for details)

We are accepting:
-  table reservations for alternative economies related groups
- proposals for workshops, skillshares, presentations, discussions, panels
- facilitators & organizers for an artists/artworker assembly
- & other experimental formats that compliment the fair are welcomed

Email us to get involved! al.altecon@gmail.com 
website: WhatDoWeDoNow.info
facebook invite: What Do We Do Now? Oct 18-19

Report Back: Another Art World Is Possible Workshop

Alternative Economies Another Art World Is Possible workshop, May 11, 2012 NURTUREart
Arts & Labor’s Alternative Economies Workshop at NURTUREart, Bushwick.

On Saturday, May 11th Alternative Economies facilitated a workshop as part of the “Cashing Out” exhibition curated by Petrushka Bazin Larsen at NUTUREArt in Bushwick.   A diverse group of roughly thirty artists came together to discuss our enchantments and frustrations with the art world as it exists, and to brainstorm how alternative economic models could be applied to the current system, or replace it altogether.

The workshop was structured into two parts.  In the first we listed what we liked and didn’t like about the art world.  Many agreed that we liked art, being artists, and the artist’s lifestyle.  We value the autonomy that being an artist affords, the opportunity to experiment with social forms, and the ability to create new, non-normative identities. On the other hand many expressed frustration with the art world’s exclusivity, it’s lack of transparency, exploitative working conditions, it’s resistance to organization, and it’s competitive individualism. We also disliked our powerlessness in the face of corporate media, and the ways that capital exploits art and artists for it’s own ends, including the use of artists as gentrifiers, and the use of art as a means to create financial gain within speculative markets.

In the second part of the workshop small groups discussed existing alternative economies and how these could be applied to the art world, in our own practices as artists, and to communal life.  Thirty-six ‘stepping-stones’ developed by the Center for Popular Economics were distributed among the groups.  Each ‘stepping-stone’ is a card which summarizes an alternative approach to the economy and gives examples of how it is currently being used in contemporary society.  These cards cover a wide range of examples including: legislative proposals such as the ‘Tobin Tax’ on financial transactions, social movements such as the Zapatistas and Brazilian Landless Workers Movement, co-operative forms such as producers co-ops, land trusts, fair trade and co-housing. The cards also gave examples of labor activist strategies such as worker’s centers and factory take-overs, and forms of communal resource management such as participatory budgeting, creative commons, and common property management, plus many more.

Much enthusiasm was generated as we discussed the possibilities of these new forms of practice and institution building.  The workshop was a great way to introduce ourselves to the range of possibilities that already exist and the implications for art and artists.

Alternative Economies is planning to put new economic models into practice. Anyone who is interested in working on a project that experiments with economic structures should come to our next meeting, Sunday June 30th at noon.  Contact us at al.altecon@gmail.com for more information. Now’s a good time to get involved as we’ll be brainstorming new projects to work on over the next year.

Arts and Labor, Teamster statements on Frieze New York

The following two statements from Arts & Labor and Teamsters Local 814 were presented at the Frieze New York panel with Nato Thompson and Suzanne Lacy on Friday, May 10, 2013.

  • To watch raw video footage of the statements, go here and skip ahead to 15:40.
  • Press coverage of the panel appearance is here and here.

Arts & Labor statement on Frieze New York

Thanks to Nato, and especially to Suzanne Lacy, for giving up some of their time on this panel so that we can speak. We respect Suzanne’s work and look forward to hearing her talk, so we will be brief. Suzanne’s longtime commitment to both art and activism brings us all here, and it is our shared sense of the importance of both that prompts us to make this urgent appeal regarding the conditions under which the Frieze art fair is constructed and run.

Arts & Labor is a self-organized group of art workers that includes artists, interns, writers, educators, art handlers, designers, administrators, curators, assistants, and students among other art workers. We came together during Occupy Wall Street to expose economic inequality and exploitative working conditions in our fields and oppose them through direct action and educational initiatives, building solidarity across class, educational, and professional divides.

We stand here today with organized labor to speak out against the inequitable hiring practices of the Frieze New York. Frieze is the only major NYC art fair to be built by non-union workers, now for the second year in a row.

The ground on which this tent stands is public: it belongs to us all. When we lend it to Frieze, we have an obligation to ensure that it serves the public good and not merely private profits. Frieze is renting this city park for less than $1 per sq ft, probably the lowest rent in all of NYC, even as millions of dollars are changing hands in art sales. The fair isn’t serving all New Yorkers: not only is the ticket price too expensive for many working people, but the facilities have been constructed and run by over 500 low-wage, non-union workers.

We urge you all to contact Frieze and demand that they use local and union labor, in order to ensure that workers are treated well and earn decent wages and benefits. The contact information for Frieze is on their website and on the flyers we are passing out.

We know that the fight against exploitation doesn’t begin or end with Frieze. But we are here today use because we believe that we MUST start holding art institutions, especially those like Frieze, accountable to the people who live and work here. The art economy must support its workers with living wage jobs that people can survive on— whether in the studio, in the office, in the gallery, or on the building site.
We love art, and want to see it flourish in our city, but we know that there is a better, fairer way to foster its growth. Thank you.


Teamsters Local 814 Statement on Frieze New York
Julian Tysh, Membership Coordinator from Teamsters Local 814, “the Home of NYC’s Professional Art Handlers”

Hi, my name is Julian and I’m a long-time art handler currently working as a union rep for Teamsters Local 814. Our union represents skilled professionals who work as art handlers, movers, and truck drivers. I’m here today, thanks to the support of Nato Thompson, who stood with the Sotheby’s workers when we were locked out, and thanks to Suzanne Lacy who was gracious enough to give us some time to speak today…thank you both so much. It’s deeply appreciated.

As a worker, as a trade-unionist, and as life-time lover and supporter of the arts, I’m glad to see that we are finally starting to have a bigger, and more dynamic, and more public conversation about the role of art in the economy, and about the role of art workers in that economy.

So as New York’s economy continues to transform, and as the arts continue to be a major engine for economic growth, we need to start making sure that local residents and local communities are benefiting from this economic activity instead of being hurt by it.

As most of you already know, we’re in the middle of a serious jobs crisis right now…in this country and in this city. So in the middle of this crisis, why is an organization like the Frieze using a local park but not hiring local workers? And if they’re paying way below market rent for public land, and making tons of profit from the sale of high-priced art, then why are they still using contractors that pay way below the area standards?

If New York is going to welcome the Frieze with open arms, and if New Yorkers are going to support the Frieze by buying tickets, going to their events and parties, and even by buying art there, then shouldn’t the Frieze begin, at the very least, by respecting local workers and the communities that depend on those workers?

Relationship needs to be based on mutual respect. Other art fairs in NY have shown respect for local workers by abiding by the standards that have long been set by our city’s unions. Why should the Frieze force art handlers and exhibition workers and carpenters, and other art fair workers to work below New York standards? Instead of using a city park, and city subsidies, to drive down wages and benefits, the organizers of this art fair should have the decency to honor the standards that workers in New York have had in place for decades.

Local artists, local workers, and local unions have already entered into a powerful partnership for a more creative, more sustainable, and above all a more socially responsible city. The question is: will the Frieze become part of that New York, OUR New York, or will they continue to profit at our expense? Will they understand finally, that it’s those of us who make the art, and who hang the art, and load the art, and drive the art, who make this city happen? Or will they continue to freeze us out?

Let me close by thanking you all for your time, and thanking those artists and individuals who have already called on the Frieze to do the right thing. Thank you again for listening and please tell the Frieze to come to the table with our city’s unions. Thank you again.

Another Art World is Possible Workshop Saturday May 11th

Another Art World Is Possible - Workshop at NurtureArt May 11thArts & Labor’s Alternative Economies group will be facilitating a workshop this Saturday at NURTUREart in Bushwick:

Another Art World Is Possible
Arts & Labor’s Alternative Economies Workshop
NURTUREart 56 Bogart St, Brooklyn NY 11206
May 11, 2013 3-6pm

The economic and social realities of the art world as it exists can often be a source of frustration for artists, but what might an alternative model look like? In this workshop we’ll discuss the things we like and things we don’t like about the current art world. Then we’ll learn about various alternative models and discuss amongst ourselves how they can be applied to or replace the current system.

Facebook rsvp: Another Art World is Possible

Arts & Labor and Unions to Speak Out at Panel with Suzanne Lacy and Nato Thompson

Rat in the Machine: Frieze NY Art FairArts & Labor and members of the Teamsters Joint Board 16 will read a statement of support for the labor struggle that is happening at the Frieze NY “Rat” Fair at the panel conversation between Suzanne Lacy and Nato Thompson at Frieze on Friday, May 10, at 4 PM. 

Join us and stand up for art worker rights—from the studio, to the office, to the building site!

HOW TO GET TO THE FRIEZE RAT FAIR