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Artist Pension Trust Faces Backlash over Storage Fees

Artists who signed up to participate in the Artist Pension Trust, a mutual assurance fund that was established to provide long-term financial security for artists, are up in arms over a new monthly storage fee. The trust’s announcement that, beginning in September, it will charge $6.50 per month for each work that members stored has some threatening to pull out of APT.

In the Facebook group “APT Artist Solidarity,” which was started by Los Angeles artist Kristin Calabrese, members of the trust are airing their grievances. “I originally understood that that APT was developed to protect artists and their futures. It makes me sad that it has become increasingly clear that it is about making a profit,” wrote New York artist Marina Kappos.

Kirsten Hassenfeld said the move was “a breach of trust and a tactic to mitigate financial pressure on APT while transferring the burden to the artists themselves.” Since the artists only have until August 11 to decide whether they will agree to the trust’s new policy, many are concerned that there is not enough time to make other arrangements for storing their works. Some are even considering destroying works that they cannot afford to transport.

Al Brenner, CEO of the Mutual Art Group, which includes APT, defended the new fee, arguing that the cost is much less than artists will have to pay elsewhere. He told Colin Gleadell of Artnet that “it’s not about raising money to balance our books; [it’s about getting] the work out of storage so that it can be seen and eventually sold. Some works have been in storage for ten years and that’s not good.”

According to Brenner, the appeal of APT for some artists was the free storage facilities. In order to become a member, one originally had to agree to contribute to the storage expenses for oversize works when signing the contract, but the policy has never been enforced.

APT recently faced criticism in April when it withdrew eighteen lots from a Sotheby’s London auction. While APT successfully put fifteen works on the block in a Sotheby’s New York auction in March, Brenner said the artists whose works were up for sale in London were afraid that they would be undersold, which could negatively impact future sales.

Founded by businessman Moti Shniberg in 2004, APT asks participating artists to contribute more than twenty works over the course of two decades. The works will eventually be sold and the profits divided between all of the artists in the trust. APT’s holdings consist of thirteen thousand works by two thousand artists—one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world.