After visiting last week’s Future Map 10 exhibition* at London’s Zabludowicz Collection, with it’s boastful bi-line: ‘showcasing the finest talent from the University of the Arts’, I have been thinking:

Why are we churning out so many artists?

Because we seem to have created a culture of art-school factories: get-em-in and churn-them-out, resulting in an unsustainable number of artist-graduates, for whom an actual career as artist, curator or administrator is unlikely.

Why do so many people want to go to art school?

One theory points to the past two decades where the YBA’s, and the likes of Banksy etc have become cultural celebrities, resulting in the media-led idea that art can deliver culture, status and money. But only for the fortunate ones: the so-called successfully emerged artist?

Making a living from art is difficult. The value placed upon the idea of emerging, and taking part in activities that may help you to emerge is a double-edged sword – sometimes beneficial but always costly – in both the artists own time and/or money.

Most internships are voluntary and, while providing useful contacts and experience, rarely lead to a paid job within the organisation. This is precisely because few organisations can actually afford to pay for staff, unless they are free. Another example of artists being used for their skills but exploited or undervalued in terms of remuneration.

Due to cuts, few galleries, public or otherwise, are able to offer artists an exhibition fee. Rather one is expected to exhibit for free, not just for the glory, but in exchange for the esteemed value this may or may not have in enhancing one’s career or CV value – that slow accumulation of competitive tick-box experiences.

There are more open art competitions than ever before, but often artists pay the gallery a fee – £8 to £50 – for the chance of having their work selected. However, research shows that many of these competitions attract hundreds or thousands of aspiring entrants, so chances are limited. Administering these opportunities can’t be cheap [even with the hardworking unpaid interns ] so that the competition proceeds provide some sort of life-line for less commercial galleries. Yet, galleries would cease to exist without artists. However, it seems doubtful many artists feel this sense of power.

Yet we live in hope – Why?

Because of the advent of a whole new generation of purpose-built, modern art galleries – Tate Modern, Baltic, Towner, and the soon-to-be-finished Turner, Margate and Jerwood, Hastings.

Art is the new religion – quite literally, as churches and chapels become art galleries. These art-venue success stories, said to be across all classes, have sold us a new and successful image of art in our culture. Art being valued, artists seen as heroes, cultural leaders and people to look up to. It used to be film stars and pop stars, and now it is [a few] artists.

No wonder young people want to grow-up to be artists, it equates to the celebrity culture of the past two decades, but with a middle-class culturally- aspiring twist.

What is the point of making art?

I can’t speak for a twenty-something. However, for those who choose to study in their forties or fifties, a second [mostly unpaid] career in fine art, obviously isn’t about money and success. It is fundamentally a more philosophical pursuit, in search of trying to make sense of: how we live now?

I believe work is made, in the hope of asking: how to be? and how to live?

Not: how to emerge?

However, in the end, whatever age, stage or experience we are at, we all seek to be valued – to have our large, insatiable art-egos stroked – and be told that our work is good. And for that, most artists give their time free, give their art free, and [happily?] continue to pay-up for the poor odds of gaining an exhibition opportunity.

So remind me, why do we do it? What is it all for?

And, what real alternatives are there?


* To read ‘Art without a Heart’ a review

of the Future Map 10 exhibition follow this link: www.a-n.co.uk/p/984463


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Art Without A Heart: How not to emerge!

On Wednesday I attended an exhibition called: Future Map 10, which promised it would be: ‘Showcasing the finest talent from the University of the Arts London’.

It was slick, so slick and professional the actual hand of the artist was missing. There were no works on canvas or paper. Unbelievable! Six top London art schools got together and chose no drawings or paintings? What’s going on? Conspiracy or accident? To read a full review of Future Map 10 follow this link:


Meanwhile, I also visited the Museum of Everything in London’s Primrose Hill, and as usual it delivered beyond expectation. Exhibition 3 is an eclectic collection of weird and wonderful stuff from Victorian screens, shell boxes and Punch and Judy to exquisite collections of taxidermy. From minature dogs to stuffed, boxed Edwardian Squirrels in a school setting, stoats wrestling and two-headed lambs, you’ve got to see it to believe it. Sketch-book heaven!




How to emerge? [or make New Year resolutions that you keep]

It is noticeable that writing one’s New Year Resolutions always involves more of the word more, and less of the word less. When, so often, less is more …..

Message to self, and anyone else …

Resolutions for 2011


1. To be in studio, on studio days, by 9am latest.

2. To give up sugar [& alcohol? Are you sure?] for January.

Less measurable but equally desirable

3. More time drawing, less time on computer. Everyone should draw.

4. Check emails less! Are you addicted to that little frisson of possibility?

5. Focus on thinking as well as making

6. See more shows & write more reviews. Thinking about what we have seen, and writing about it is good for us.

7. More walking and talking with friends and colleagues, instead of sitting. Walking aids the thinking process and combines exercise and communication, and increases happiness endorphins. Why not walk and talk for a meeting, than sit down for a coffee at the end, and sum up the main points.

8. Make more lists … very satisfying, and can be ticked off!

Unmentionable but desirable

9. More paid art opportunities

10. More exhibition opportunities

11. More emerging [whatever that means]

Happy New Year, everyone!