Home Arts “We need to talk about class in the art world”

“We need to talk about class in the art world”

by godlove4241
0 comment

Since advertising mogul and collector Charles Saatchi coined the term YBA (Young British Artists) for a group of largely working-class British artists in 1992, there have been multiple failed attempts to shoehorn movements into equally catchy acronyms. But none have failed as miserably as the Evening Standard Young London Artists – or YLA – a term that made the headlines this week to describe a “new wave of disruptors” meant to “refresh London as a cultural epicenter”.

The list – which includes curators, journalists and gallerists as well as artists – is remarkable, not for the caliber of its entrants (who are undoubtedly successful), but for the debutantes, heirs and it-boys and girls it profiles without an ounce of irony. Isaac Benigson is described as an “artist and socialite”, while Alaia De Santis, the daughter of swimwear designer Melissa Odabash and tech mogul Nicolas De Santis, is “bold, beautiful and back in London after a year and a half in New York”. India Rose James is described as a gallerist but also as the “platinum blonde heiress of Soho” and Robin Hunter Blake, a regular on the London party scene, came to photograph the group “in velvet moccasins and taupe suits”. Then there’s Phoebe and Arthur Saatchi Yates, “the ultimate entertaining couple” aided – as the article notes – by the fact that Phoebe Saatchi Yates is Charles Saatchi’s only child. And so the art world turns.

The article do a nod to the struggles faced by working-class people trying to make a living in the creative industries in London, and includes Nnamdi Obiekwe and Zina Vieille who, through their business VO Curations, provide affordable studios for hundreds of artists. The article even begins by noting how the recent Structurally F–cked survey compiled by AN The Artists Information Company found that artists in the public sector are paid an average of £2.60 an hour. To follow this appalling fact with such snapshots of privilege is grimacing, but indicative of a culture in which we choose to ignore hard truths.

No wonder class remains a taboo subject in the art world. According to a 2018 report by Create London and Arts Emergency, only 18.2% of people working in the arts are from the working class. Besides pay, one of the biggest structural barriers to career success is housing, a sector currently in crisis 40 years after former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s misjudged right to buy scheme. While an older generation of people were able to buy their social housing at below market price in the early 1980s, millions of young people now rent precarious and shabby accommodation, most bought under the right to buy and now rented at unaffordable rates.

In a significant twist of fate, it was Saatchi himself who helped Thatcher rise to power in 1979 with a political poster showing a queue for unemployment benefits coming out of an employment office. The slogan read: ‘Labour is not working’, and below, in smaller print, ‘Britain is better off with the Tories’. Thatcher won a landslide election, marking the start of 18 years of Tory rule.

We are now 13 years after another period of Conservative rule and the The UK art world is collapsing under the pressure of budget cuts and a downgrading of culture. Earlier this month, Labor leader Kier Starmer finally addressed class, acknowledging the barriers that stand in the way of social mobility, which has reversed. In a bid to fight the Conservatives’ kamikaze policies to cut arts education funding by 50% to focus on “high value subjects”, The work has started that every student, whatever their education, has access to the arts until the age of 16.

Education for all – not working harder or “going broke”, as Phoebe Saatchi Yates implores in the article – is key here. The vast majority of artists these days are literally broke, and peddling the myth that being more industrious will get you out of poverty is demeaning. We urgently need structural change – and the fastest way to make that happen is for those with generational wealth and invaluable social, media and political networks to help nurture the arts more broadly and deeply.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

@2022 – All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by artworlddaily