Home Arts Britain’s ‘anti-immigration’ government welcomes foreign artists

Britain’s ‘anti-immigration’ government welcomes foreign artists

by godlove4241
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Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine last year, a group of Russian artists decided to leave their country to pursue their careers abroad. Among them was Vladimir Logutov, an award-winning video and installation artist, whose work can be found in major Russian galleries and who has previously held exhibitions in China and several European countries, as well as the UK.

Logutov came to the UK via a circuitous route from Belarus, Georgia and Dubai. Once here, he received a Global Talent Visa from the UK government to live and work. One of his sponsors, who helped him get his visa, was Jonathan Watkins, who ran Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery from 1999 until last year.

Logutov is among 726 foreigners in the arts and creative industries to be granted one of these visas last year, double the total in 2021. Most came to the UK for political and/or economic reasons. Last year they arrived from 69 different countries, including heavyweights from Russia, China, the United States and Nigeria, but also from Palestine, Syria, Uruguay, Chile , Iceland and Zimbabwe.

However, obtaining these figures and country of origin required a freedom of information request. Perhaps because the Ministry of the Interior is wary of admitting such high figures? These talent visa figures also contrast with the frustration of some overseas artists trying to perform in the UK, apparently because they did not have the correct temporary visas or papers. Among those recently foiled are the Khmelnitsky Orchestra of Ukraine and German punk band Trigger Cut.

This Conservative government is seen as ‘anti-immigration’ unless those looking for work here are in areas like health, with its obvious shortages, or can prove they are getting decent paying jobs. . Yet many who receive Global Talent visas in the arts and creative industries have jobs that are generally not well paid and highly insecure.

Undaunted, Abdulrazaq Awofeso, a Nigerian artist specializing in wood and found materials, was determined to make it to the UK. “There are so many better prospects here. In Nigeria there is also so much corruption,” says Awofeso. He first heard about the Global Talent Visa from a friend in Nigeria. He first contacted the Home Office, then received letters of recommendation from three different galleries around the world where he had previously exhibited. His application, like all others for visual artists, was then forwarded to Arts Council England (ACE) which, after a selection process overseen by its international director, Nick McDowell, makes recommendations to the Home Office. Over the past two years, it has accepted visas for about three-quarters of those offered by ACE.

Awofeso, who now lives in Birmingham, has just held a solo exhibition at the Ed Cross Gallery in London, and has another in July at the South London Gallery. He supplements his art income by working as a carpenter.

His compatriot Chika Jones, a performance artist, left Nigeria after a run-in with the police, which he said related to his dreadlocks. He considered trying to get a visa for Canada and the UK, but found the UK system easier to navigate. Like others, he had to pay £623 for his application to be processed, plus the annual surcharge of £624 to be able to use the NHS. While Jones has had reasonable success as a performance artist, he makes ends meet as an online publisher and his wife works as an accountant. After five years, Jones can apply for indefinite leave, so he can settle permanently in the UK.

Not just oppressive countries

Getting out of Iran last year was a priority for photographers Babak Kazemi and his partner Pargol E. Naloo, who found the oppressive regime and obtaining gainful employment very difficult. “We heard about the visa program from friends in Iran and thought it was worth a try,” says Naloo. In fact, it was Kazemi who applied while living temporarily in France. He obtained his visa very quickly following the recommendations of the Delfina Foundation and Fariba Farshad, the co-founder of Photo London, the photography fair. Naloo also received her visa, although it was in her partner’s name. They are both landscape photographers, who still use film. “I fell in love years ago with the magic of the darkroom,” says Kazemi.

Most who seek to work in the UK via a Global Talent Visa come from oppressive or impoverished countries. This is not the case for August Lamm, a 27-year-old American. She first considered applying in France and Germany for a Global Talent Visa, but found it easier to apply here. Lamm, an illustrator and painter, got one of her recommendations from Alastair Adams, until recently president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, whom she met while working in New Haven, Connecticut. “London is the world center for figurative art and portraiture, which is why I wanted to come here,” says Lamm, who also recently published a book, Pen and ink hatching.

Robert Jenrick, the Immigration Secretary, says the Global Talent Visa ‘attracts world-class artists and musicians’ to the UK

Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images

It looks like as many, if not more, Global Talent Visas will be granted this year. Surprising perhaps, as there are many concerns, particularly within the Conservative Party, about immigration levels. Yet this program adds to our creative pool – something even some ministers accept as important.

“We have transformed the immigration system to encourage the best and the brightest to come to the UK, including recognizing the immense contribution of the creative industries to our rich culture,” said Immigration Minister Robert jenrick. “Through our Global Talent route, the UK attracts world-class artists and musicians. It is open to promising individuals who are leaders in their field.

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