Painters find a prime site for artistic touch: Recession is forcing artists to find a fresh approach to exhibiting their work. Dalya Alberge reports

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The Independent Online
THE RECESSION and dwindling numbers of galleries are forcing artists to become more creative and professional about getting their work seen. Yesterday a group of 33 artists opened a sprawling skylit studio space in an accessible location - Cubitt Street, in central London.

The artists believe that their studio complex is unique in that it has an area of 2,000 sq ft (185.8 sq metres), within the overall 20,000 sq ft (1,858 sq metre) space, in which to stage exhibitions by outside artists and guest curators.

If all goes according to plan, such shows should be an added incentive for people to visit the Cubitt studio's resident artists. Although London's East End is said to offer Europe's highest concentration of artists' studios, dealers, agents, critics and collectors are notoriously lazy about travelling far from Bond Street.

James Brook, a painter based at the Cubitt studios, said: 'It means that all kinds of art can exist and be shown, rather than having dealers dictating what's fashionable.'

The Cubitt artists have launched a museums-style 'friends' scheme to fund exhibitions and the building's upkeep. In return for an annual pounds 30 subscription, members will be invited to private views and talks, and given a limited edition book featuring work by a number of the studio's artists.

Mr Brook said: 'We have already got 35 people, each paying pounds 30. It won't be long before we can raise pounds 10,000.' There are plans to organise a fund-raising programme and for two exchange shows with similar artist-run studios in the Netherlands and France. Mr Brook said that at a time when resources for the visual arts are diminishing and stories of artists being evicted from their studios at the end of short-term leases are common, 'we have to become more professional, plan ahead for the future and create some sort of permanence'.

The Cubitt artists are all too familiar with the anxieties of being evicted. In 1991, shortly after establishing themselves in a disused factory in King's Cross leased from British Rail, they were informed by the BR Properties Board that they would have to move out. The studios stood on the site of the King's Cross terminal. Eventually, BR offered the latest premises: the Cubitt building is a former British Telecom truck repair centre.

Another artist is showing a creative spark by making the most of the recession-hit empty shop and office spaces. Brian Taylor, a figurative painter, will be based in Charlotte Street, opposite Channel 4's offices for three months, from 22 February. He will be using it as an open studio, working at street level, as what he calls an 'artist in residence' in rent-free space. He said: 'I got the idea from Turner, who had a shop in London, just stocking his stuff and no one else's. It was quite usual until the 1850s, when commercial galleries started up. Anyone can do it, anywhere . . .'

For an artist who works in Wales, off the beaten art world track, it is a shrewd move. The makeshift gallery is next door to Karsten Schubert Gallery, a leading contemporary art gallery that is very much on the beaten track.

(Photograph omitted)