In Frieze, Katharine Stout reports on the dire situation of studio space for artists in London, which is quickly making Manhattan look downright affordable. An excerpt:
It is many years since artists lived and worked in London’s Soho or Camden Town. The generations that emerged in the 1960s formed alternative communities in deprived areas of west London and then, a decade later, in Wapping and the Docklands. In the 1990s, artists once again returned to the heart of London, finding spaces in Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. All of these areas are now far out of the reach of all but the most successful artists, or those who were lucky and/or canny enough to buy property there when no one else wanted it.
It’s well documented that the association of artists with a particular area aids its gentrification. Yet, it’s now increasingly apparent that – thanks to a booming property market and sky-high rentals – there is nowhere left for struggling artists to live and work in central London. New models for studio-space provision are desperately needed, along with the recognition that artists are not simply convenient, dispensable nomads...
Whether these initiatives are enough to stem the exodus of artists to other areas of the UK – or keep them from leaving the country altogether – remains to be seen. The traditional dependence on artists themselves to find a way to survive is no longer realistic: it is because there has been no consistent government policy that there has been no long-term planning or investment. ACME’s efforts – which have recently enabled it to operate without the need for its Arts Council grant – exemplify that, once a building is operational, it can become self-sustaining. But it is a kind of capital investment that requires a long-term vision. If the situation facing artists in London is not acted upon, then the city will simply become an international base for buying and selling artwork produced elsewhere, rather than remain a leading centre for the living, breathing production of contemporary art.
Image of London via www.euro-realestate.com.