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Supermarket's request for free art gets the response it deserves

Sainsbury's ad

Try something new today - work for free!

A Sainsbury's supermarket in Camden Road, north London, has incurred the wrath of graphic designers and creative directors (opens in new tab) by asking for an artist to "voluntarily refurbish [their] canteen". Having posted a print ad (opens in new tab) in the Camden New Journal, the supermarket chain provoked a backlash from artists across the internet who are sick of their work being undervalued.

In the bafflingly worded ad, Sainsbury's were looking for someone with no qualifications or experience when it comes to designing an interior environment to "give employees an atmosphere to look forward to and emphasize on the relaxation that we want them to feel". Quite a tall order, especially with a budget of £0.

Despite the reassurance that "your work will contribute to our success," artists have been quick to slam this offer. The best put down of all comes from artist and choerographer Teri Anne Scoble (opens in new tab), who turned the idea of providing a service for free on its head.

Sainsbury's response

Will Sainsbury's take up this offer?

Put simply: businesses large and small should not ask anyone to work for nothing. This includes artists. The old line that a voluntarily completed project will be a great portfolio piece, or that it will lead to bigger exposure, also falls flat. Artists can't pay the rent with exposure. They can't exchange their portfolio for groceries.

In response to all the online flak, a Sainsbury's spokeswoman says that they're discussing the issue with the Camden store.

"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," she adds. "It is not our policy to hire volunteers, and we are sorry for this error of judgment."

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Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.

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Art