The Doomed Pursuit of Dignity: Artists as Property Guardians in and Against Artwashing

Ana Vilenica


This paper discusses the role of artists engaged in live-work property guardian schemes and their potentials to act in a dignifying way at sites of struggle over the regeneration of council housing in London. To gain this understanding, I will describe how artists are embedded in this context by looking at the interaction between artists and property guardian enterprises working on housing estates in London. I will critically examine the artist role through the lance of artwashing critical method, namely allyship of the art world with the real estate industry in the process of social cleansing of housing estates in the UK. Following this, I will discuss the potential of artists to act in a dignified way, drawing on interviews with artists that have lived as property guardians. I will talk about the frustration of artists that stems from their circumstances, namely torn between the necessity to survive within an unaffordable housing market in London and the wish to make art in an uncompromised way. Studying the instrumentalization of artists employed by real-estate industry property guardian enterprises and the artists' attempts to resist this instrumentalization is vital for any understanding of the recent mutations in the capitalist management of housing and art and vital for the attempt to establish new sites of artistic urban struggle for housing justice. 

How to cite this article: Vilenica, Ana. "The Doomed Pursuit of Dignity: Artists as Property Guardians in and Against Artwashing." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies 25 (September 2021): 185-196. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i25.455

Article received: April 20, 2021; Article accepted: June 21, 2021; Published online: September 15, 2021; Original scholarly paper


artwashing; housing; regeneration; property guardianship; London.

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