Supporting Artists: Acme’s First Decade 1972 -1982 at the Whitechapel Gallery tells the story of Acme’s beginnings as a charitable housing association for artists. The archive on display consists of artists’ own photographs, communications between them, and the more formal paperwork listing artists’ names next to East London addresses which had been granted at low rent to use as studios, as well as a further, more comprehensive history of the Acme Gallery’s six year stint in Covent Garden. I attended a gallery talk given by co-founder Jonathan Harvey on 5th December 2013, and found the attitude behind these early schemes made an interesting comparison with the beginning years of the Bow Arts Trust live/work scheme, which enabled me to live in Balfron Tower as a working studio space, in an expanding community of artists within the same building, as well as other nearby estates.
‘In the period between 1972-82, Acme accrued vast amounts of artists’ housing, some of which eventually dropped off the GLC’s demolition list, enabling artists to purchase and live in them on a much longer term basis – it is tempting to describe such a basis as permanent, even. However, these artists remained poor, and struggled to maintain these properties, where in many cases all the internal walls had been removed to make open plan studio spaces.’
Supporting Artists: Acme’s First Decade 1972-1982 continues until 23rd February 2014 in Gallery 4 of the Whitechapel Gallery, London.