Debtfair Houston: How Do the Economic Realities of Capitalism Effect Artistic Practice?

Debtfair is an ongoing artistic campaign to expose the relationship between economic inequality in the art market and artists’ growing debt burdens, exploring the idea that all spaces function with a layer of extraction just below the surface. Occupy Museums and Art League Houston (ALH) invite Texas-based artists to reframe and exhibit their artwork within the first-realization of Debtfair to illustrate the economic realities for Texas artists and their relationships to the cultural economy at large.

Original artwork will be collected through a non-juried open call in which artists will be asked to submit a work of equal relative value to their monthly debt payment. Artworks will be organized in collective groupings (“bundles”) and exhibited inside the walls, between the studs of the main gallery of ALH. Bundles will be grouped based on information collected from an online questionnaire. This collective exhibition format will present artworks in shared rather than individual terms, illustrating the total debts amongst participating artists and identifying the institutions in which these debts are rooted (banks, schools, cultural programs, life expenses, etc.).

Artwork in Debtfair will be for sale, but not in the normal way that art is sold. Bundled artworks will be available for sale with a starting value of the totaled monthly debt payments of included artists. This number will then be given the same interest rates and financial metrics applied to the debts of artists involved increasing bundle price at the same rate of artists’ debts. Any sales will be distributed to artists at their declared value, further profits evenly split and all payments made directly to the artists’ lending institution for a minimum of one month’s debt relief. 

Being in debt often elicits feelings of shame and isolation. If we highlight the hidden layers of artists’ lives, we hope to work together towards economic visualization and structural change. We encourage you to participate and contact us with questions at