This corporate art display is a shallow attempt to tap into Fitzrovia’s cultural identity

By Fitzrovia Noir

Where Creativity Lives.

"Most images displayed lack any real relevance to the area, styled like fashion and lifestyle spreads from oversized glossy magazines."

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.

Rubbish bags in front of photograph.

Has Fitzrovia become a dumping ground for irrelevant art?

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

4 Comments on This corporate art display is a shallow attempt to tap into Fitzrovia’s cultural identity

  1. Hi All,
    I do sympathise with your concerns around the development and the loss of a local space, but as a friend of an exhibiting photographer I think it’s a little mean spirited to criticise the gallery and the the artists who were given the chance to exhibit their work in public as “glossy and irrelevant”! I think it is awesome that a recognised and highly regarded gallery held a free and open competition that gave so many new, young and local photographers a chance to see their work exhibited publically alongside established names. It’s such a rare opportunity and I think Diemar/Noble were brave in accepting such diverse work from across the community and anything that gives unrecognised talent a chance to be seen should be applauded. It isn’t happening in many other places across the city right now.
    AL

  2. It’s always good to see local businesses engage with local people, In this case a local gallery. But it seems the people/artists being show-cased by Diemar Noble Gallery don’t represent the vibrant artistic community that already exists in Fitzrovia. Yes, let’s applaud Diemar/Noble for brightening the place up and helping bring “art to the masses” but, the main objection is their failure to engage with groups already campaigning to use the space, parachuting themselves in to an on-going dialogue between said local group and the powers that be, and for repeating something already seen. Seems they’ve missed a trick and brought about something of a backlash that will, locally at least, damage their reputation among the artistic community. But, fear not, perhaps Diemar/Noble can make amends by doing something with the members and associates of Fitzrovia Noir Community Interest Company next time round? And, let’s see the members and associates of Fitzrovia Noir Community Interest Company show willing when it comes to engaging with Diemar/Noble? I for one cannot wait to see the results.

  3. I think that is an appallingly disingenuous post from Richard and with a plain agenda. I think there is MUCH to be applauded for a commercial art gallery using a high profile opportunity such as this to showcase unrepresented young London artists, when they could have used it as a platform to promote themselves or their own photographers! It looks fantastic and it’s really heartening for me to see a gallery – a commercial gallery – sacrificing a commercial opportunity to give a break into the system for artists for have never had a chance to be seen so widely. Let’s support them, above all else, because if we don’t, then we have truly lost our creative empathy, our individualism and that’s when we REALLY lose our identity as a community.

  4. But this is all by-the-by., as I said I’d like to see the agreived party – Fitzrovia Noir Community Interest Company – actually eating a bit of humble pie and working with Diemar/Noble. We’re all in this together after all and, at the risk of repeating myself, the FNCIC’s main objection is DN’s “failure to engage with groups already campaigning to use the space, parachuting themselves in to an on-going dialogue between said local group and the powers that be, and for repeating something already seen.”

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