No Picture Needed. An Open Letter to Unseen from Felicity Hammond

Open letter to Unseen.

February 11, 2020

I am writing to retract my payment request for the artworks sold, expenses incurred and
the commission realised as part of your art fair in 2019. You have no intention of paying
me or the countless other artists, filmmakers and writers whose invoices are long overdue.
I cannot afford to spend any more time and energy dealing with your organisation. Your
persistent lying is so exhausting that I no longer want to remain in contact.

You contracted me to make a commission that was displayed all over the city of
Amsterdam, advertising Unseen. I was heavily pregnant when I travelled to make this
work. You never even paid for my train ticket, let alone my fee. You also sold editions of
my work. I never received payment. Further to this, you asked me to adapt the project to
make an installation that would form a central exhibition to your fair. I completed this during
the first three weeks of my daughter’s life. The birth was difficult and my body hadn’t
recovered. I justified my decision to work because of the promise of financial security. You
lied about the status of my invoice for months.

Despite the bankruptcy of three quarters of your organisation, your foundation – an
independent non-profit, is preserving your brand. The foundation is working to find
financial backers to re-boot the commercial arms of your organisation. You plan to go
ahead with the 2020 fair with a clean slate and without any legal obligation to pay the
artists you have deceived. Your foundation therefore participates in an unethical system
whereby the money owed to multiple artists can be written off, whilst you still maintain the
cultural capital we have produced for you.

Your foundation claims that it ‘aims to increase the impact of artists working with
photography on society’. The reality is quite the opposite – you are actively decreasing our
impact by participating in a model that weakens our position and entrenches our precarity.

You are not helping artists. You are merely using the language of support. Your brand
adopts the rhetoric of the foundation whilst propping up commercial entities who do not
have the best interests of artists at heart. This is deceitful. Unseen as a project has failed,
and the only appropriate course of action is to cease operation.

In the meantime, I request that you remove my image from your brand. This includes
images of my work and video interviews you made with me whilst I was pregnant. I refuse
to further contribute to your cultural capital which should have ceased to exist when you
were declared bankrupt.

Felicity Hammond.

Editorial note. We emphatically state the sentiments expressed here are Felicity’s own based on her experiences with Unseen. We stand in solidarity with her and her family on this matter.

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