Artists win rent-free studio space in the City of London

Four early-career artists have triumphed in the Studiomakers Prize, winning rent-free workspace in the heart of the Square Mile.

The Studiomakers Prize is part of a new collaboration between the City of London Corporation, which provided £110,000 in funding, and Outset Contemporary Art Fund. Outset partnered with SET to deliver Prize workspaces in an empty commercial unit on Byward Street.

The initiative helps areas attract and retain the creative industries, and also gives artists professional development mentorships and networking opportunities.

Abi Palmer, Leily Moghtader Mojdehi, Luning Yang, and Yifan He, whose work spans painting, sculpture, and robotic installations, have moved into their studios in Byward Street, where they will be able to work rent-free for nine months.

The artists were selected from, among others, Slade School of Fine Art and Goldsmiths University by an expert panel of judges comprised of independent curator and writer, Fatoş Üstek; Director of Vital Arts, Catsou Roberts; and curator and Members Programme Coordinator at SET Studios, Ellie Dobbs.

 Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said:

"My colleagues and I are delighted to send our warmest congratulations to Abi, Leily, Luning, and Yifan who, so early in their careers, have consolidated their success by winning the Studiomakers Prize.

“Having their own rent-free studio space in our culturally vibrant Square Mile is a superb opportunity for these four artists at a pivotal point in their careers.”

Co-Directors and Trustees of Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Candida Gertler OBE and Nicolette Cavaleros, said:

“We are thrilled that the Studiomakers Prize has found a new home in the City of London, in order to continue Outset’s commitment to studio provision that supports early-career artists, and their development.

“Our sincerest gratitude goes to our fruitful partnership with the City of London Corporation, whose grant funding has enabled us to relaunch the Prize, move into the heart of our capital, and support its Destination City aims to redefine the City as an important proposition to the creative and cultural industries.”

Judges of the City of London Studiomakers Prize, Fatoş Üstek, Ellie Dobbs, and Catsou Roberts, said:

"We congratulate all four recipients of the City of London x Outset Studiomakers Prize. We were truly excited by the breadth of applications and the artistic rigour. We believe that the four successful applicants will have a productive exchange with one another, and we are very excited to see their practices grow over the next nine months." 

Artist Abi Palmer said:

“It’s actually really hard to find a studio near my home that’s both physically and financially accessible - the CoL x Outset Studiomakers Prize gives me a space to expand on technical aspects of my practice as I work towards more ambitious and sustainable installation, sculpture and film.  I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity.”

Artist Leily Moghtader Mojdehi said:

“The CoL X Outset Studiomakers Prize has given me the security of having a space to develop my practice, which in nature needs a workspace to exist and mature. I believe working in a shared space can ignite experimentation with mediums, techniques and methods; thus, I am excited to work amongst the other prize-winners, and learn from their differing practices.”

Artist Luning Yang said:

The 9-month studio bursary awarded by the CoL x Outset Studiomakers Prize allows me to keep developing work in London with other talented artists. I’m really looking forward to making more sculptures in the studio.”

Artist Yifan He said:

“CoL x Outset Studiomakers Prize gives me the space and structure to further develop my practice, especially exploring the ways to make kinetic installations and soft robots. I am excited to become part of a diverse community of artists. I look forward to making new connections and perhaps forging collaborations!”

In recent years, the Studiomakers Prize has helped develop the careers of artists including Fani Parali, Andrew Hart, Joshua Kerley, and Sofia Mitsola, who have since exhibited their work internationally.

From 2017 to 2020, the Prize delivered the equivalent of 21 years of free workspaces to talented creatives, allowing their continued practice in London.

The City of London Corporation has launched Destination City, which will transform the Square Mile’s leisure offer, creating a leading destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.

With a £2.5 million annual investment from the City Corporation, Destination City will drive the Square Mile’s recovery from the pandemic and deliver an exciting events programme, including outdoor festivals featuring music, art, education, sport, and wellness.



About the City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.

About Outset Contemporary Art Fund

Established in 2003, Outset Contemporary Art Fund is the leading international, independent charity supporting innovative art projects that engage the widest possible audiences. With a presence in nine countries, the charity has raised over £16 million worldwide in support of the creative ecosystem. Outset is recognised for creating influential models of responsive arts philanthropy with its innovative public-private schemes and initiatives. Practising catalytic philanthropy means not only offering crucial funding support but also activating networks and initiating new relationships and partnerships. The charity was the first to introduce a pioneering paradigm of cross-institution collective patronage to fund challenging artistic projects in the UK and is now proud to operate on a global scale. Outset is powered by inspiration, driven by expertise, renowned for its engagement, and focused on effective energy and ideas, with a commitment to being there at the outset of impactful change.

About Studiomakers

Studiomakers, a major initiative of Outset Contemporary Art Fund, is pioneering new ways of securing the next generation of truly affordable workspaces, and delivering the cultural infrastructure that is vital for our creative industries.

In February 2022, Studiomakers was awarded a significant grant from the City of London Corporation to bring our unique expertise into the heart of our capital. Core funding has allowed us to focus the Studiomakers initiative on the City over a three year period. Studiomakers will become a delivery partner, applying our team, comprehensive knowledge and pioneering models, to deliver both long and short-term projects.

About SET Studios

SET was founded in 2016 by three friends with the aim of curating an expansive programme of experimental arts & educational projects, functioning as a platform for new and underrepresented practices whilst providing affordable workspace for diverse and dedicated artists. In late 2016, SET officially became a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). Over the past 5 years, SET has opened 12 centres in London and has blossomed into a network of supportive communities.

About the artists

Abi Palmer

Abi Palmer is an artist, writer and filmmaker. Her practice is centred around the fluctuations in her chronically ill body, resulting in mixed media work which is often playful, multisensory, and collaborative. Influenced by the fluxus movement, Palmer works with found objects in a clash of textures and styles - from hacking into fruit machines to create large interactive poems, to reinventing an entire weather system for my indoor cats.

Leily Moghtader Mojdehi

Leily Moghtader Mojdehi is an interdisciplinary artist based in London. Her works revolve around personal narratives that explore her transcultural identity and liminal state of being, which inherently address socio-political concerns. Through her studio practice, Mojdehi adopts different visual languages, with the intention to layer her works not only literally, but referentially, steeping them in various historical, cultural, and aesthetic references particular to herself. The outcome of this playful mixing comes work of gentle confusion between the real and the representational in densely layered collage compositions, to tell equally comforting and discombobulating stories.

Luning Yang

Luning Yang explores the material world and marginalised experience. Their works combine architectural and industrial materials alluding to the built environment including urban infrastructure, liminal space, and ornamental facades with flat cartoon aesthetics, addressing an alternative world between the real and the fantasy. Their sculptures oscillate between abstraction and figuration and often takes humorous and intimate form suggestive of virtual human-scale characters. Starting with vague narratives, they organise the installation of sculptures around existing architectural features of exhibition space and in relation to each other.

Yifan He

As an interdisciplinary artist, Yifan (they/them) makes immersive interactive installations, virtual worlds, and kinetic sculptures that concerns queerness as the (im)mobility to pass borders and pass bodies. Yifan is interested in inhabiting the muddy space between the URL and the IRL. Their work reconstructs memories through providing alternative gateways (fluid bodies and worlds) for people to experience the unevenly distributed nonlinear space-time. Interested in blurring of the lines between individuals, Yifan also initiates interactive situations by sending out edible love letters, creating participatory eating performances, and disseminating prints of the collaboratively written ‘crybb manifesto.'