Sweden calls time on lifetime artist stipends

Peter Vinthagen Simpson
Peter Vinthagen Simpson - [email protected]
Sweden calls time on lifetime artist stipends
Manne af Klintberg

The Swedish government plans to end the practice of giving a select group of Swedish artists a lifetime income guarantee.


"The income guarantee covers 157 artists and leaves all the others outside. I want more than 157 to get the possibility to develop their art," said culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth when presenting the government's plan.

The income guarantee is administered by The Swedish Arts Grants Committee (Konstnärsnämnden) and amounted to 17 million kronor in 2009, which will now be re-allocated as five and ten year scholarships. Recipients currently enjoy a guaranteed 18,000 kronor ($2,500) per month.

"The income guarantee is one of the forms of support for professionally active expand their possibilities to work and develop their art," the committee explains on its website.

The committee's chairperson Ingrid Elam has previously expressed support for the proposal, according to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, and the committee has proposed further changes to the government over how the grants are calculated.

"It is not defensible that the state, for perhaps 30-40 more years, maintain a flawed system," Ingrid Elam wrote in a statement of the committee's assessment of the proposal.

In its eight-page advisory opinion, the committee also warns of problems for established artists when the new pension system comes into force.

Several organisations representing those active within the Swedish culture and arts sector have expressed opposition and outrage at the changes.

"The government should extend the lifetime income guarantees to 200," said Karin Wilén at The Swedish Artists' National Organization, according to Svenska Dagbladet.

Several artists have expressed their view of the changes in the media in recent days. Film director Roy Andersson told the Aftonbladet newspaper that his grant has been very important to him and that he would likely have fallen into penury "on several occasions" without it.

But there are also those that argue that any changes are met with vocal objections from some quarters.

"I can not understand the outrage. The money is not being taken away, just re-allocated - it is surely better for active artists to get a bigger slice of the cake," said arts and business advisor Susan Bolger to The Local on Wednesday.

The existing 157 artists included within the system, which provides a current guaranteed lifetime minimum salary of 18,000 per month, will not be affected by the changes and so the system is expected to exist for a while yet as the youngest recipient is 52-years-old.

Among the Swedish artists in receipt of a state income guarantee are included the clown Manne af Klintberg, author Jan Myrdal, film director Roy Andersson and the chess-player Ulf Andersson.


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