Art has a special relationship with money. As the latest art sales show, contemporary art is a coveted luxury item. It is collected by people who have supervillain yachts and help to fund the Tory party.
Can today's plutocrat art say anything about poverty? Artist
The resulting work, Slum Vacation, has been shown at the art gallery of
Yet the limitations of Slum Vacation seem all too apparent. Reproducing a "slum house" in a gallery turns poverty into spectacle. The way people live has been aestheticised here as an object of curiosity to contemplate.
The fact that
Slum Vacation so obviously risks making poverty into entertainment and the artist into a hero as he literally slums it. Come on. How can this stand up as a serious representation of, let alone intervention in, the lives of the poor?
Only that title, Slum Vacation, shows a more subtle understanding of how hard it is for artists to make a meaningful social statement. With its echo of the Dead
If this work fails to address inequality, is there any art now that does do it justice?
I see more depth in the work of
Even so, the contradictions are agonising for artists today who want to be socially engaged, for any image of poverty in the moneyed art of our time risks looking about as socially realistic as an 18th-century porcelain figure of a happy swain.
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