Artist Profile: Marketa Luskacova

1 June 2022

This month’s Artist Profile focuses on Marketa Luskacova, one of the featured artists in the Arts Council Collection touring exhibition Found Cities, Lost Objects: Women in the City curated by Turner prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid, on view at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Marketa Luskacova’s work is marked by her own lived experiences. Themes like cultural identity and social behaviour are at the core of her candid photographs. Born in Prague in 1944 during the communist regime, Luskacova graduated from Charles University with a degree in Sociology in 1967 and studied Photography at FAMU (1967-1969). Around this time, she began to take photographs as a means to document local traditions in some of the poorest communities of Slovakia. 

She moved to London in 1975, where she continued her career as a photographer. She began to document her surroundings, producing captivating portraits of everyday life in some of the least privileged areas of the city. She felt particularly drawn towards the cultural atmosphere of Brick Lane and Spitalfields street markets, where she used to buy her own groceries. 

'I was poor and I needed to do my shopping there as it was the cheapest place to buy things. I could identify with the people in Brick Lane because they were immigrants and they were in need of cheap goods. Once I had done my shopping, I would leave my bag with a stallholder while I took my photographs.'

In her series London Street Markets, Luskacova documents daily life in the city, capturing powerful and emphatic portraits of its people and their traditions and offering a glimpse into the diverse cultural fabric of London East End’s society in the seventies.

 

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Women shopping, Roman Rd. Market (1975) belongs to this series, which was exhibited at Whitechapel Gallery in the 1990s, establishing Luskacova’s reputation as a social photographer both nationally and internationally. The photograph is currently on view in the exhibition Found Cities, Lost Objects: Women in the City at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Curated by Turner prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid, the show encourages visitors to view the city through a woman's eyes, addressing themes ranging from safety and navigation to concepts of belonging and power.

'I don’t go to Brick Lane regularly anymore, sometimes six months pass between one visit and another … I photographed what I saw there and what I thought it was good to record, be it a face or a smile, an animal or a shoe. I believe in the evidential quality of photography, and I know that unless things are done in a visually interesting way they are not remembered.'

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The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.