May 16th - 19th
The Hub - 47/49 Tanner Street SE13PL
Guts Gallery aims are to provide financial support and exhibition opportunities for artists less platformed within today’s contemporary art scene; our desire is to facilitate space and exposure for BAME artists, female artists, working-class artists, queer artists, and artists outside of London (bridging the North/South divide)
Through initiating relationships between established and emerging artists, we can create an inclusive and diverse arts community, with a dynamic and interesting creative working environment, to produce new structures that enable emerging artists to have the exposure they are often denied.
From the 16-19th May 2019, Guts Gallery is opening its doors for the first time, exhibiting works from renowned and emerging practitioners at Ugly Duck’s London Bridge event space. An extensive programme has been curated, with talks, tours and spoken word events taking place, to produce and uphold creative networks for artists often not afforded such opportunities. In partnership with the company, Ugly Duck, whose large scale studio complex is being offered, enabling artists, community groups and the public to come together in London’s busy centre.
Our aim is to cultivate an art scene here in London that supports and promotes artists of low income backgrounds, as well as all artists of colour, sexual orientations and gender identities, to collectively demonstrate the cultural wealth, quality and importance of grassroots galleries and encourage new audiences from outside of London to enrich nation networks.
The distribution of wealth within the arts operates on a model which mirrors that of wider social austerity; it disproportionately benefits people who do not experience racial oppression, gender or class discriminations. In order to facilitate the success of struggling artists, individuals in the art world and institutions who are financially and creatively influential need to recognise and discuss the lack of resources available to a large number of artists who are systematically disadvantaged and unheard.
Ellie Pennick is the founder of Guts Gallery. She is a queer, working-class artist from North Yorkshire. After leaving university in the Summer of 2017, she was accepted onto a Sculpture Masters course at the Royal College of Art. However, due to limited funds, she was unable to study there.
This spurred her on to think about how she could create a business venture that could benefit other struggling artists like herself. Many people are scared to speak out about inequality in the art world, often in fear of their own precarious positions being compromised. Pennick, through the creation of Guts Gallery, wanted a gallery that could speak out, a gallery with the guts to protest.
Who Does Guts Gallery Support And Why?
// FEMALE ARTISTS
One of the factors that have lead to the formation of the Gallery has been a drive to close the gender pay gap within the art world. According to a report published by the Freelands Foundation, throughout 2017 only 28% of artists represented by major commercial galleries in London were women, a fall from 29% the previous year. Gender disparity is a problem that thrives in most creative industries, and it is our goal that women occupy an equal space in the industry and percentages like these see an increase. Equal representation is just one aspect of gender disparity in the art world, and equal pay is another. Finding creative and innovative solutions to as broad a social issue as equality is something that we hope to incorporate into the running of the gallery.
// WORKING CLASS ARTISTS
It is commonly known that the art world has historically been, and continues to be, dominated by the privileged elite. The art world’s approach to working-class artists is one which currently makes achieving success in the field considerably harder than it is for people of middle-class or financially privileged backgrounds. This is a structure that Guts Gallery will challenge. Providing a creative platform for those without financial privilege on their side is not only essential to the diversification of the art world, but also is a crucial part of opening up much-needed dialogues on social issues and current working-class problems.
Financial support and recognition of working-class artists are in due order. GQ recently published an article entitled ‘When will we give working-class creatives the support they deserve?’ in which the life and artistic career of Laura Footes is explored. Footes bluntly described how she got to her position in the industry by ‘building an identity based on fakeness’ – creating an image that fits well into the art frame and alternative persona. The need to build different personas and identities in order to become a successful artist is not an idea that should exist. Instead, we should shape the frame to be more open, welcoming and understanding working-class artists and their refreshing opinions.
// ARTISTS OUTSIDE OF LONDON // Bridging The North-South Divide
Another way in which Guts intends to diversify the art world is by bridging the gap between the North and South of the UK. The London art scene is thriving, with lots of emerging artists getting representation and recognition. However, the physical and ideological distance between the North and South can mean that those who are thriving in the North don’t get the chance to be represented in the South, especially within London’s artistic circles. Not only is this a great shame, it also seems creatively essential that artists whose work is appreciated and recognised in the North get the funding and opportunities to be recognised in the South too. Large amounts of working class artists establish themselves in the North and then find transferring or taking up artistic space elsewhere very difficult to do effectively. Appropriate funding would act as a necessary vector to move both art and artists across this geographical divide. In a 2017 article in The Guardian, it was estimated that £700m worth of funding would be needed to completely bridge the artistic divide between the North and London. As it stands, the divide negatively impacts the UK’s cultural and creative progression. To even begin to bridge this vast gap is not only a step forward with regards to equal funding distribution but also a step forward with regards to the increased representation of working-class art and artists in the capital.
// BAME (Black, Asian + Minority Ethnic) ARTISTS
One of the most common debates with regards to the art world and its shortcomings in relation to equal artistic representation is the absence of BAME artists, especially in large established gallery spaces. In a 2017 Art-Net report, it was found that 80% of artists in NYC’s top galleries were white.
Although this figure stands with regards to New York art galleries, the story is much the same in London. Social mobility for BAME artists is something that is being talked about, but more can be done in order to give these artists the appropriate platform to showcase their work and thrive. If large art galleries are failing with regards to BAME representation with no excuse and the most amount of funding, then it is essential that smaller independent galleries, like Guts, recognise this negative trend of whiteness within the gallery space, and do as much as possible to change this fact. Equal representation and apt social change can begin on an independent level that will then, hopefully, be further echoed by larger galleries and art establishments.
// QUEER ARTISTS
Another area of the art industry’s shortcomings that we would like to focus on, and continue to improve through the gallery, is the representation of queer artists. On a significantly more positive note, queer visibility in art is something that is currently being boosted, with a host of queer artistic talent gaining significant recognition. However, as with any area of progression, a further positive incline in visibility is necessary. Increased recognition, and creating a further safe artistic space for queer artists to experiment and exhibit, is another goal of Guts.
// ARTISTS ON A LOW INCOME
London is currently an expensive place to live with the high costs of living. Artists continue to migrate away from London; popular alternatives include Margate, Ramsgate, Southend and Nottingham. Others have gone farther afield, to places such as Berlin – places that promise lower rents and less creative prohibition. The continuing hardships of London living create hostile working conditions for young people who subsequently remove themselves from their creative communities. Artists, disenfranchised by broken promises and unfeasible working conditions, opt to leave or are forced to leave. Support systems disintegrate after studies in creative fields are completed, and creative potential seems to come up against an expiry date. Artists now face a choice between working full time to pay the rent, to cover loans, and to support families, and their creative work seems to either be slotted into exhausting schedules, performed for free or totally abandoned.
The uncertainty of a post-Brexit art world only adds to the artist’s adversity. According to the Arts Council, arts and culture contribute about £11.8bn to the UK economy, but the majority of artists earn less than £10,000 a year. The potential loss of the creative Europe programme funding could also prove detrimental to the industry. While there have not been any immediate changes and announcements regarding operators’ access to funding, the money may no longer be available once Britain leaves the Union, exacerbating what is already a tight financial situation and providing a major threat to the industry.
Polly Morgan, Liam Fallon, Robert Cooper, Alexi Marshall, Lucy Neish, Sophie Vallance, Lucy Gregory, Bryden, Sola Olulode, Florence Hutchings, Billy Parker, Hannah Tilson, Valerie Savchits, Douglas Cantor, Tess Williams, Rosa Luetchford, Joe Holbrook, Ze Aya, Florence Sweeney, Mary Savva, Alfie Kungu, Rene Matić, Ruby Dickson and Jenny Beard.