1983, Shock report on art-schools in crisis

➤ Art on the run: How Margaret Thatcher squeezed the lifeblood out of art-schools

First published in The Face, July 1983

The Face, journalism, RCA, government, cuts, costs, education, fine art, painting, printmaking, film-making, music schools, fashion, Henry Moore, Of all the four-letters words, the dirtiest one in higher education in 1983 is arts. Faced with a government that reaches for the scissors whenever they hear it, the art schools are forced to make even greater economies than those serving supposedly more relevant needs. They scavenge in skips for materials and scour industry for sponsorship. They are producing a generation trained at best in the art of make-do. David Johnson investigates The Shock of the New Austerity…

◼ “No way can I contemplate large-scale work. . . My work is getting smaller all the time”

❏ “My printmaking is more concise and, since ink is restricted, we’re discouraged from using colours”

◼ “I’ve had to keep my music fairly simple. I’ve made do with acoustic instruments instead of electronics”

❏ “Photographic paper rationing has meant fewer prints and smaller ones. I couldn’t consider life-size portraiture at £40 a throw”

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The Face, journalism, RCA, government, cuts, costs, education, fine art, painting, printmaking, film-making, music schools, fashion, Henry Moore,

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◼ “For many film departments 16mm has given way to 8mm and some departments have closed entirely in favour of video”

❏ “College curfews are reported everywhere: fewer caretakers mean Epsom students must start two hours later. . . Trent finalists keen for publicity were digging into their own pockets to stage a fashion show in London”

◼ For some sculptors the cost of metals has soared beyond reach: “I work in plaster because wood is hopelessly expensive and stone is out of the question. I can’t afford to cast into bronze. You get very good at faking”

❏ The RCA Rector says: “The Government is cutting down on many of our activities. Over three years we have to save about 17%”. The hottest topic is the library being asked to save £30,000!

◼ Part-time specialist tutors are used more extensively in art-schools than elsewhere and are the first in line for the chop

❏ Painter Peter Doig: “You’ve got to be an entrepreneur these days”

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The Face, journalism, RCA, government, cuts, costs, education, fine art, painting, printmaking, film-making, music schools, fashion, Henry Moore,

Click for larger image © Nick Logan/The Face Archive

❏ “The fewer tutors students have contact with, the more introverted they grow. I see their work and the standard is falling”

◼ An education minister told the RCA in 1981: fewer fine artists, more industrial designers or your grant suffers. Six members of the college council resigned in protest.

❏  The Head of Fine Art at Liverpool Polytechnic says: “I’ve spent all year bitterly fighting the threat of Fine Art being closed altogether.”

◼ Our greatest living sculptor, Henry Moore, raises his voice in protest: “I deplore such cutting down. It was a big enough uphill fight to get the new art-schools built at all.”

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s: Hockney’s new vision of the world

➢ Elsewhere at Shapersofthe80s: Culture corner

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TAGS – The Face, journalism, RCA, government, cuts, costs, education, fine art, painting, printmaking, film-making, music schools, fashion, Henry Moore,

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