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Artistic Survival: The Contemporary Nature of the Struggles of Being an Artist in London

Jones, E. (2022). Artistic Survival: The Contemporary Nature of the Struggles of Being an Artist in London. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis examines the material conditions of artists: their working, living and studio provision in the context of contemporary London. It prioritises the lived experience of artists through interviews with 31 artists from three not-for-profit studio providers undertaken between 2017-2018. These narratives show how the ability of artists to create artworks has been inhibited and diminished by the amount of time artists need to spend working in other jobs to survive in an expensive city. The thesis describes how artists now frequently need to work five days a week in a well-paid job in order to survive, often doing their artwork at the weekends. In a profession where low pay and wage inequality are endemic, artists are struggling to survive, and this affects the demographics of who is able to become an artist and forge an artistic career. It analyses how artists ‘pay double’: paying for both studio space and accommodation (as well as artist materials). The interviews clarify that it is becoming harder to get and afford a studio; many are closing and getting smaller and more expensive, with ‘new build’studios catering not just for artists but the wider creative community, thus further decreasing the studio space specifically for artists. Not-for-profit studio providers try to keep studio costs affordable for artists, but often have insecure tenure at the studio buildings with leasing amounts increasing year-on-year. Artists can no longer afford to have studio space, let alone live, in the inner city. Finally, the thesis draws on the interviews to analyse artists’ perspectives on whether to stay in or leave London: the ‘push and pull’ factors in their thoughts on whether to stay or to go. Has London now become so inhospitable to struggling, low waged artists that they cannot afford to live in the city anymore? Is the vibrant artistic scene in London a thing of the past and other places are now more realistic and desirable options for forging an artistic career? Through these interviews and their analysis, the thesis therefore builds on existing areas of concern, extending existing work on creative labour and artists’ experience, by showing how a new stage of difficulty has been reached.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
N Fine Arts
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Jones Thesis 2022_Redacted.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 30 June 2026 due to copyright restrictions.


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