Kids Company: Shrinking childhoods



Tate Modern, London.

Until 17 February 2005

Star Rating: 4/5

Children’s art often has innocence but not at this
exhibition. The subject matter is often raw and uncomfortable with
work documenting child prostitution, crack dens, rent boys, gang
violence, abuse and suicidal thoughts. This autobiographical art is
often dark and disturbing, .

Each of the six Portakabins, which create an enclosure in the
grounds, features the work by artists between the ages of four and
20 that, inspired by contemporary artists, tell stories of hope,
desire, but also of despair. The unmade bed installation here
belonged not to an artist (Tracey Emin), but to a crack addict.
Works inspired by Damien Hirst include aspirational family scenes
suspended in acrylic.

The exhibition often dwells on the desperate lives many children
lead, and while it would have been useful to find out more about
the therapeutic benefits of the arts projects, this is an
extraordinarily powerful exhibition.

The exhibition notes illustrate the plight of hundreds of
thousands of children living with poverty or violence. The
exhibition, which rather than simply highlight inequalities in
childhood seeks to shift our view of children’s welfare
needs, is more than thought provoking: it is challenging and
genuinely moving.

Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark,

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