Shopfront galleries: artists and squatters take advantage of the crisis: this article was published in the business section of the Guardian on 14 April. Apparently there are plans afoot in the UK to let artists and community groups make use of all the thousands of high-street shops that are now empty . Here is another news story in a similar vein from America – www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,503424,00.html – but in this case artists are using disused shops as studios until paying tenants are found.
I have heard several rumblings and rumours from artists and organisers of my acquaintance who have been thinking along similar lines in a Dublin context. While it’s pretty obvious that no landlord wants their premises sitting empty for months and months, it takes a huge amount of dedicated time and effort to actually convince a landlord to GIVE you a space that would in years past have pulled in a large amount of rent money. For now it might be difficult to convince a landlord to hand over an empty space for no money, but perhaps in a few more months when landlords (the city council, perhaps?) actually admit that no-one wants to pay for their empty retail units, and if the right people begin negotiations, it could start to happen at a more official level.
Could Irish developers ever do something like this? This would be to admit that they are in serious trouble, and for now I think they are still in denial. Having said that, there does seem to me to be a huge number of new studio spaces popping up in Dublin ever since the famous ‘downturn’, so maybe more artist-run shopfront gallery spaces are on the way too. I am involved with running Monster Truck Gallery and Studios (which we do NOT get rent-free, unfortunately), so I have a particular soft spot for this type of establishment.
This topic seems to be in the news quite a lot at the moment. Along a similar vein, a recent Observer article was about artist squatters who are also making the most of the recession in an ‘oh so hot right now’ way. The article and the photos make me think (perhaps unfairly) that these guys are going for style over substance, and also that it sounds like an awful lot of effort and stress, which might not leave much time for the actual art-making. The question is, will all these new art spaces mean a YBA-style emergence of a new art movement or will it just give loads of bad artists the chance to get a bit of notice? Actually, maybe that’s one and the same thing…