Photo: Keystone Features
Charcoal sticks languished in boxes and artists in Paris were left muse-less when nude models across the city threw in the towel (sorry) earlier this month, protesting low wages and poor working conditions.
A group called La Coordination des modèles has been fighting to have the profession valued as a serious career rather than a paying hobby since 2008, with its latest organised protest carried out on July 7, according to a video report by French newspaper Libération.
As artnet reports, many of France’s nude art models are not artists or students doing it for supplemental income, but full-time, professional models. They generally make €15 per hour (a little over $21) working days that can last from six to nine hours, generally holding poses for three hours at a time, with 15-minute breaks. Without contracts and regular salaries, the models have no job security, holiday pay or sick leave.
The Daily Beast reports that a 2008 state ban on tip collecting to supplement models' lowly wages sparked a naked demonstration, with dozens braving chilly conditions to demand more respect from the state.
But despite their efforts, and the full support of art teachers, full-time models say working conditions haven’t improved in the six years since their protests began, and are calling on the Ministry of Culture to intervene on their behalf. “We’re asking for a reassessment of our wages and the problem of our status,” Patricia Clark, a member of the group, told Liberation, “We have no status, we are technically temp workers, so we’re sitting in ejection seats, and that’s unacceptable.”
In addition to improved benefits and job security, the models are calling for more hygienic, less physically strenuous conditions in live painting and drawing classes. Hours --even weeks-- spent in a single pose brings muscle spasms and exhaustion, with some models comparing the job to tough manual labour. As one of the protest organisers told The Guardian, theirs is “a craft that should be respected; not just anyone can take their clothes off and hold a pose."
Can't argue with that, right?