Rant 46: The New Bourgeoisie

Rant 46: The New Bourgeoisie Amelia Crouch, Support/Allowance, 2011. MDF, enamel paint, audio, chairs, pound coin. Variable dimensions.

Are current trends of non-payment and free labour perpetuating a new ideal where artists are becoming distinctly bourgeois? Guyan Porter questions purportedly leftist and radical practice that promotes art as being apart from common economics and, consequently, from payment.


Something strange has happened in the minds of many artists.

They’ve come to believe that art is a hobby not a profession. 

That artists should work for free and have no employment rights. 

That legal representation is a luxury. 

That paid employment is a capitalist conceit. 

That art is a privilege; a commodity designed for people with disposable incomes, and should not to be sullied with talk of common economics. 

That art should be practised in spare time. 

That non-art employment should be paid, where as artist employment should be unpaid. 

That it’s acceptable to gain a wage from a real job, or to support your practice via the unemployment system or a generous other. 

That art should be inward looking and primarily concerned with its own aesthetic.

There’s a new nostalgia for the 19th century idea of the self-sufficient white male indulging their artistic tastes, conforming to aristocratic models of patronage and petty subsidy, backed up by a shame or denial of the monetary system, yet refusing to change it or live outside of it.

Such ideas are undoubtedly supporting current trends of non payment, of free labour used to back up budget cuts. 

And this is exactly what free market economics requires the most. 

A new bourgeoisie parading as radicals and leftists, promoting free labour, supported by short-term portfolio employment, with flexible low or unpaid working, all designed to appeal to a self-appointed ruling class.

Sounding surprisingly neo-liberal, with unregulated markets, anti trade union sentiments, and employment designed primarily to favour the employers, art is reduced to banal decoration, underpinned by a lack of belief in the value of art, and the contrived attempts of artists to enter the endorsement system.

Following these principles is playing directly to a passive capital model, designed to assuage untouchable dealerships, increasing the authority of the luxury commodity market, at the expense of new ideas.

How conformist, how bourgeois.


Contributed by Guyan Porter

Guyan Porter is an artist and writer currently based in the South East of England.


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