Grayson Perry: ‘Artists are Like the Shock Troops of Gentrification’

In the latest series of the BBC Reith Lectures, award-winning artist Grayson Perry delivered an off-the-cuff commentary about how artists can be agents of gentrification.

It is quite tongue in cheek, but explains the concept rather well:

But realness is a thing, you know that has a high currency. And this idea, you know the currency of bohemian-ness, lefty, arty-fartiness – that has a high currency, especially in the urban ecology. And if you think of artists, they’re like the shock troops of gentrification. We march in. We’re the first people to go we like this old warehouse, yeah we need a cheap studio. You know so that’s what happens – artists move into the cheap housing and the cheap spaces and they make them … you know they do their work and they’re quite cool and a little bit of a buzz starts up.

And then maybe a little café opens up and people start saying, “Ooh, that’s kind of interesting, that area where those artists hang out. I think I’m going to go down there.” And people start noticing, you know, and maybe some designers open up and a little boutique. You know and suddenly, before you know it, the dead hand of the developer is noticing it. And before you know it, the designers move in and that’s it. – bang goes the area. 

And I’ve watched, you know, this fairy dust of cool, ‘marketised’ bohemia drift down  over various boroughs of London. I should think there’s a couple of dozen of them I’ve seen it happen to over the thirty years.



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