Is the rejection of ‘Bold Home’ – a proposal for “800 affordable artists’ studios” in a Peckham multi-storey car park a tragedy for London and artists?
Artist studio provision and artists’ struggle to make a living in London has been a recurring discussion amongst younger and poorer artists for a good number of years now, but interestingly establishment figures have recently started to mutter their discomfort with the eroding support for artists in the city. Only a few weeks ago Frieze London hosted a discussion organised by senior ICA figures on the topic . Now Hannah Barry , Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton have joined the debate.
Bold Home was supposed to provide 800 new studios for artists by converting a multi-storey car park in Peckham, however, Southwark council have decided to approve a rival proposal by Mayfair-based property developer The Collective who will be building a pop up retail space with cafes and “only 50 artist studios”. Granted this sounds like a really bad idea but was Bold Home going to be the saviour of London artists that today’s Guardian article paints it to be?
“Artists and creative start-ups have no trade union representation, and no voice whatsoever. That’s why they’re being squeezed out of the city, and we simply have to do something about it” says Rohan Silva, former senior policy advisor to UK prime minister David Cameron, and the venture capitalist behind the neo-liberal paradise of blurred work and life boundaries – Second Home. Was this the person who could bring the artists to London the much needed support in question? We can only imagine what the child of Bold Tendencies and Second Home would have been like.
The Guardian article is also a great chance for art world elites to champion the cause of artists. “London is now cooling at the level of artistic production owing to a sharp decline in artists’ studio provision. Without spaces in which to work, artists can’t make things. They can’t test their ideas or evolve their practice,” commented Gregor Muir, director of the ICA, a gallery notorious (under his directorship) of poor labour conditions. The hypocrisy must be stark for the many young artists who make up his staff, paid less than a living wage on 0 hour contracts who struggle for their right to sick pay and their right to organise. For them like many other Londoners I imagine fair wages, fair contracts and fair rents would have been higher priority than more studios they can’t afford or don’t have time to be in.
It’s a shame that campaigns fought harder by people taking more risks to protect projects more important to artist and local communities haven’t had so much coverage in the national papers.