A World Art Capital, With Few Places For Artists To Work

LONDON – Francis Bacon sits facing the camera in a spacious studio littered with newspapers, paint cans and rags, right behind a large unfinished canvas.

The black and white photograph was taken in 1984 by Bruce Bernard at Bacon’s London lodge, a former coach’s home in London’s upscale South Kensington district, which he bought in 1961 and lived and worked in until 1961. died in 1992. The image is one of the first exhibits in a new exhibition of the Whitechapel Gallery “A century of artists’ studios,” looks back at the evolution of artists’ creative spaces since the 1920s, which runs through June 5.

When Bacon acquired the venue, the artists were still able to afford rent or own space in desirable areas of central London. Today, soaring property prices have made even formerly impoverished neighborhoods more luxurious, appreciating the artists who made them fashionable. Over the past few decades, artists have migrated from the East End – where Whitechapel is located – to Peckham and various other locations in south-east London. Some are now settled in seaside towns such as Margate and Folkestone.

The exodus threatens London’s status as a world art center.

“Without an artist studio,” there would be no art supply for the next generation to supply art for, said Iwona Blazwick, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery and chief curator of the exhibition. galleries and museums. “It’s part of our cultural patriarchy. We can’t lose that.”

Currently, London-based artists and creative individuals contribute more than $70 billion annually to the UK economy and account for one-sixth of jobs in the capital, according to the London Mayor’s Office. Each year, around 35,000 students graduate from London’s colleges of art and design, and begin their search for affordable workspaces.

However, art studios in London were closing at an alarming rate. The Mayor’s Office puts the total number of studios in London at 11,500. A 2018 study found that a quarter of studios in London are at risk of closing by 2023. And two-thirds of the spaces an earlier study, in 2014has been determined to be at risk of closure and is no longer in use.

In response, Mayor Sadiq Khan established Creative Land Trusta partially funded agency seeking to establish 1,000 affordable artists’ workspaces in the capital.

The mayor said in March 2021: “London is brimming with talent and innovation, but our creative community is under constant threat from rising rents, and the pandemic has taken a toll on many artists. standing on the brink,” the Mayor said in March 2021, when the Trust announced the acquisition of a space for 180 studios in Hackney Wick, a fast-paced luxury area of ​​East London.

East London’s first artist studio complex was established in the late 1960s, when painter Bridget Riley and fellow artists moved into one of the many warehouses left vacant by the Thames docks. door. The derelict site was converted into the SPACE studio, which exists to this day (albeit in a different location).

Another derelict dockside warehouse was taken over more than two decades later by a group of intrepid young artists led by Damien Hirst, who in 1988 organized a groundbreaking exhibition called ” Freeze” catapulted them to fame and turned the East End into an artist colony. By the late 1990s, there were more than 2,000 artists working in an area of ​​about 8 square miles.

Meanwhile, a forest of office towers sprang up in what became known as the London Docklands. Well-paid white-collar workers moved into expensive new apartments nearby, putting East End artists in high regard.

For individual British artists, the last few decades have been tumultuous.

In her 35 years of practice, Sonia Boyce – who represented England at this year’s Venice Biennale – has moved on average every two and a half years, she said in a videotapes posted on the Creative Land Trust website.

Young artists today are moving more often, filling temporary spaces than ever before.

Near the Whitechapel Gallery, about 50 artists have, since August, been working at Caprica Studios: classrooms and study spaces in a former design school. The multi-storey building is mainly used for filming; Stephen Draycott, artist and writer who runs the studio, said the artists were called in by a location scout “looking for something to fill the dead space”.

“The only reason the studios exist is because the building is currently on the market and pending planning permission” to convert it, possibly into residential space, explains Draycott, co. time adds that this process can take longer for apartments with educational purposes .

One artist based there, painter Gaby Sahhar, says it’s the first private studio they’ve ever had. Sahhar’s former workspace was a shared warehouse, where artists had to take turns working for the different uses of the space: the smoke emitted by the paint and the noise they made.

The coronavirus pandemic has also cost artists time.

Ingrid Berthon-Moine, a visual artist, worked in an empty office building near St. Paul for the past three years. If it weren’t for the pandemic, the building would have been converted into a luxury hotel, and she would have been evicted along with several dozen other artists who also worked there. Her studio is a corner of a carpeted open plan office with only two walls, so she closes it off with shelves and blinds. It has neon lights, false ceilings and no heating or air conditioning. But it is affordable and centrally located.

Artists demanding large spaces with full amenities are heading to the periphery of London and beyond.

Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan, who will be working at a major museum in London later this year, have just moved into Thames-Side Studiosa site with 550 fully equipped fireplaces in Woolwich, on the southeastern edge of the city.

Hastings says she’s happy to be there, but her main frustration is the “lack of choice: that we didn’t choose to come here, it was forced on us, and we changed our lives. your own to match it.”

Quinlan added that people are “so alienated from the concept of just letting something exist, even if it’s not the most profitable thing.” That had to change, she added.

Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery, expressed similar hope: some of London’s buildings and department stores closed during the pandemic will be turned into garment factories.

“Is this the moment where we can win that back, when we can really start to have an artistic presence back downtown?” she speaks. “I’m trying to make this exhibition a clearer call to developers and local governments everywhere: if you’re pushing art out of the city, do it like this. So at your own risk, because it means those cities will die.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/arts/dance/london-artist-studios.html A World Art Capital, With Few Places For Artists To Work

Fry Electronics Team

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