Tate Director Nicholas Serota Warns That Unaffordable London Is Losing Artists

London’s status as an arts and creativity hub is under threat.

Tate Director Nicholas Serota.
Photo: Sean Dempsey - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Tate director Nicholas Serota has issued a warning: London’s increasingly high cost of living is making it impossible for young artists to live and work in the capital.

“Over the past 20 years London has been one of the great successes in the field of creativity. That success is very much threatened at present,” Serota said last night at Tate Britain, the Evening Standard reports.

Serota was speaking at an event in which Labour’s mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, and members of the Creative Industries Federation presented their plans to support the arts sector ahead of the 2016 London mayoral election, which will take place on May 5.

“Fifty or 60 years ago it was possible for a young British artist to live or work in Notting Hill or Camden Town. Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, David Hockney, they all lived in the centre of the city,” he told the audience.

“Even 20 years ago artists would come to this city to train and then they would stay on after they had finished their studies and they would go on to win the Turner Prize, like Wolfgang Tillmans and Tomma Abts, from Germany; that is no longer the case,” Serota explained.

“Young students come and they are now obliged to leave when they finish their courses,” he lamented.

View of London.<br>Photo: Debot at Dutch Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons.

View of London.
Photo: Debot at Dutch Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons.

If elected, Khan pledged to protect artists, musicians, and creative industry workers by establishing “Creative Enterprise Zones” where affordable space and reduced rates and grants would be offered.

In the last decade, the rising costs of living, rents, and education have become a serious problem for the artistic community residing in the British capital.

Fees for attending courses at art schools have skyrocketed, rents for flats or rooms keep climbing, pushing young creatives further away from the city center, and relentless gentrification has seen a huge number of artists studios in desirable metropolitan areas demolished and replaced with newly built towers of luxury flats, affordable only for those working in the corporate sector.

“London is definitely facing some serious and worrying issues at the moment around higher-education, property prices, and public funding cuts, that all threaten the future of London as a capital for culture, and indeed a place to live,” Harry Beer from the young London gallery The Sunday Painter told artnet News last year.

Marisa Bellani, founder and director of Roman RoadPhoto: (c) Annas Lichter Roman Road

Marisa Bellani, founder and director of Roman Road.
Photo: (c) Annas Lichter Roman Road.

“The rising prices in London are not just difficult for artists, it certainly also pushes artist studios and smaller galleries away,” Marisa Bellani, from young London gallery Roman Road told artnet News.

This is perhaps why artists are looking for more forgiving contexts in which develop their careers. There’s been a large number of young artists, curators, and art writers from London that have moved up north to Glasgow. Others have crossed the Channel to Brussels or left for Berlin, or the buzzing metropolis of Mexico City.

“Young artists that might have thought of coming here no longer do because they can’t afford to live in London. That must give us pause for thought,” Serota said last night.

It seems that the complaints about the situation for artists and creatives in London are no longer just heard across young gallery openings and artist studios. They have now reached the higher echelons of the British art world.

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