By Fitzrovia Noir
While Fitzrovia overflows with commercial art galleries, what has happened to the area’s artists’ studios? Well, they no longer exist. They have been forced out by market demands, with some opportunists now seeking to exploit the area’s rich cultural history, by masking their marketing with an alleged ‘engagement with the community’.
The new ‘outdoor art’ display currently located at the former Middlesex Hospital site on Mortimer Street is the perfect example. Entitled, ‘Where Creativity Lives’ it is a shallow attempt to tap into the area’s cultural identity, with superficiality embodied in the images selected from a so-called ‘Fitzrovia Photography Prize.’ Most images displayed lack any real relevance to the area, styled like fashion and lifestyle spreads from oversized glossy magazines.
As judges of this ‘outdoor art display’, Diemar Noble Gallery seek to gain publicity and further establish their position as a credible photography gallery in Fitzrovia, which in principle must be applauded. They appear now, however, to be largely concerned with providing slickly presented imagery to a growing audience of business clients as Fitzrovia becomes one huge corporate stamping ground.
As local artists we have until recently shared buildings with practitioners who specialised in sonic experiments, independent film production and artisanal creativity. Neighbours over the past two decades have included the eminent painter Patrick Caulfield, noted fashion impressario Daniel Poole, award-winning composers and arrangers The Music Sculptors and many photographers from the Caribbean. We hold that diverse independent practice is the integral to true creativity but that the potential for this is evaporating in the dust clouds of demolition as Fitzrovia’s heart is greedily sold off. In fact, the very space that Diemar Noble now occupy was once the studio of groundbreaking photographers and independent film makers such as Malcolm Venville.
We cannot halt progress, but we can at least try to enhance local residents’ experiences within artwork that is relevant to Fitzrovia. Art that connects with people who have lived and worked here, invested their time in building relationships and become the core of its real identity.
To paraphrase Paul Simon in Homeward Bound we now inhabit ‘…an endless stream of coffee bars and takeways’ and the work on display reflects this attempted Soho-isation of Fitzrovia.
Together with local historians, living writers who specialise in Fitzrovia and community representatives, we first proposed using the hoardings as an engaging exhibition space over a year ago. This original idea of showcasing local talent with international reputations has now been altered to display a readymade collection that has already been see twice in the area in 2011, at Diemar Noble and John Lewis, when fresh unseen work could have easily been shown.
We need relevant work that embraces the heritage of Fitzrovia but also looks to the future of real creative practices in the area. To be true to the spirit of Fitzrovia, to draw inspiration from multicultural identities, and both the heritage and destiny of the area – therein is where real creativity lives.
From the members and associates of Fitzrovia Noir Community Interest Company fitzrovianoir.com