It might be the People’s Prize that is most coveted by the Emergency5 artists. Not only because it represents the opinion of a greater audience than a panel of judges, but, with economies collapsing, the 500 quid might see them through Christmas. Being an ‘Artist’ isn’t usually a career in itself. Most successful artists do some teaching, lecturing or tutoring at one or more universities. Art colleges like to employ practitioners, which is useful. When budgets are cut, it is often the Arts that take a brutal hit. All jobs are at risk nowadays, jobs in the Arts are just riskier. The recent graduates among our Emergency5 exhibitors will struggle to finance the continuation of their practice – though inclusion in this show and others akin to it help attract what funding there is. You can be creative on the cheap, I was always reminded ‘all it takes is a pencil and paper’ – yet, realistically, to achieve success you need to invest in your own practice. It might be the rent on a studio, on purchasing the best materials you can, or buying time – time is essential and it’s expensive. Employment eats away at time, but everyone must eat. Poverty eats into time, stability and well-being are necessities.
It’s said that Art survives and is strengthened by economic disaster. That might be so. You can easily appreciate the excesses of artists over the last decade cannot be continued, financially or morally – jewel encrusted skulls, figures cast in gold. The Age of Spectacle is truly done. Or, its practitioners are running on silent, until… Does money make ‘art’ easier?
It’s obvious that having enough dosh to live and focus on your art must be of benefit – the edge given by hunger is pretty blunt, really. But, having the money to spend on making, on fine construction and materials, doesn’t that often disguise impoverished thought or ideas. The ‘wow’ of rich fabric, immense scale or outrageous folly, is it enough? Art and money have always moved forward hand in hand. In the Twentieth Century, few renowned artists came from poor or working class background – there are exceptions, but most exponents of visual art had some stable income (or recourse to someone’s wealth). Visual art is probably still a largely Upper Middle Class occupation. But, the economic reasons for this imbalance are no longer as assured – as the gap between rich and poor grows wider.
With the eventual birth of new economies will we get new modes of art, as yet unperceived of? It’s to be hoped.