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Duarte Carrilho da Graça
Courtesy Duarte Carrilho da Graça

London's art scene is being killed off by money

Tate director Nicholas Serota has spoken out against the capital’s soaring living costs

Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate museums and galleries, has warned that the spiralling costs of London living are pricing out the next generation of artists.

The not-so-shocking news was shared in a Creative Industries Federation talk last night, where Serota chastised the government for neglecting the capital’s young creatives. “Over the past 20 years, London has been one of the great successes in the field of creativity,” he told the audience, which included Labour’s 2016 mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan. “That success is very much threatened at present.”

Serota went on to discuss London’s ongoing housing crisis – which has seen a sharp drop in affordable studio spaces, and a slew of dire rental opportunities. “Artists would come to this city to train and then they would stay on after they had finished their studies,” he remembered. “They would go on to win the Turner Prize, like Wolfgang Tillmans and Tomma Abts from Germany. That is no longer the case. Young students come and they are now obliged to leave when they finish their courses.”

“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,” he added.

It’s been a particularly tough few years for the UK’s creative scene. After last year’s announcement that all arts funding is set to be cut by 40 per cent, it’s become very clear that the Tories place hardly any value on this sector. However, Khan – the bookie’s favourite for the next mayoral election – is keen to ensure that some semblance of soul stays in the capital. Promising a “new age of philanthropy” last night, he agreed with Serota – adding that he would do what he could to keep London’s “cultural crown”. 

“The time is ripe to open up a new wave of giving to the city’s arts and culture,” the politician reportedly told the audience. “Public money alone isn’t sufficient, and is increasingly scarce in these straitened times... (we need to) use City Hall to bring together the city’s wealthiest residents with the aim of increasing giving and donations, so that we can invigorate our arts and culture for future challenges.” Let’s just hope it’s not a case of too little, too late.