The art world today told of the “devastating” impact coronavirus has had on artists’ livelihoods and warned that emerging talent will not be able to survive in London.
The capital’s most promising new artists described their “desperate” circumstances following the cancellation of annual events such as the London Art Fair, which was due to take place in January. With uncertainty over the future of many commercial galleries due to rent and rate payments and the disappearance of many jobs often used by artists to support their work, some predict a difficult year ahead for the art scene.
London Frieze Week began today with the unveiling of 12 sculptures in Regent’s Park, but the contemporary art fair will be mainly digital this year with just a handful of physical exhibitions and talks taking place until 16 October.
Screen printer Gerry Buxton, 38, who is based in Woolwich, showed at eight art fairs last year, four in London. He said: “The art fairs are my bread and butter. I have invested money in being able to attend art fairs that didn’t happen this year, which will roll over to when they do, but I have money caught up there. It will be a lottery as you don’t know what the fairs will be like. They won’t be as busy with social distancing.”
Buxton added: “If this happened a few years ago when I first moved to London, I wouldn’t have been able to survive.”
Before lockdown, Hackney-based Mia Wilkinson, 28, who specialises in figurative oil painting, made up to 40 per cent of her income selling her work at art fairs and galleries. Now it is 10 per cent and she works as a personal trainer to supplement her income.
She said: “I am from the North East and I wouldn’t have been able to come to London to study and make a living now in these circumstances.I was working in Mayfair in the bars and clubs but young artists won’t be able to do that.”
Wilkinson used selling platform Artist Support Pledge during lockdown. Founded by abstract artist Matthew Burrows, it allows artists to sell works for no more than £200. Once an artist makes £1,000, they are asked to invest £200 back in to another artist. Burrows said: “No one knows what will happen next. So we have to do what we can now.”