Sainsbury's has apologised after its store in Camden Road, north London, placed an advertisement calling for an artist to refurbish its staff canteen for free. The ad was published in the Camden New Journal, which provides local news from the Camden, Islington and Westminster areas.
The ad read, "Sainsbury's are looking for a creative and ambitious artist to voluntarily refurbish our canteen. Gain particular experience in the creative industry whilst making our community a comfortable area for our employees to escape to.......Get your work recognized. Share your gift with the heart of Camden. Leave your mark by doing what you love and do best."
This ad was criticised by many on social media. It even led to the creation of the #payartists hashtag on Twitter, which was trending in the UK. For instance, Conor Collins, an artist, wrote, "I am looking for a company worth £150,000,000 [€190.61m, $215.51m] to feed all of my artist friends in Manchester. Gain particular experience in the grocery industry making our community of underpaid artists (on in your case...completely unpaid!) be able to have a cooked meal..... Or alternatively you could actually take some of the millions you fork out to your CEOs and pay for someone to do work for you so that the concept of 'starving artist' wouldn't have to be a thing".
The ad was also criticised by a support network for artists. They called it "ludicrous" and "misguided". Jeanie Scott, the executive director of a-n, the Artists Information Company, said: "The majority of artists earn under 10k a year from their practice – examples like this are just one of the reasons why."
A Sainsbury's spokeswoman apologised for the incident, the Guardian reported. "We're discussing this with our store in Camden. The advert was placed in the local paper following a colleague discussion around ways to improve the canteen and offer an opportunity to the local community. It is not our policy to hire volunteers, and we are sorry for this error of judgment", the spokeswoman said.