The YBAs, or Young British Artists, are a group of artists who came to prominence in the 1980s. I have an Argentinian friend, AKA Juan, who is baffled and confused by the constant use of acronyms in England. He says it hardly happens at all in Argentina. Once he pointed this out I started to LMAO – they’re everywhere! Perhaps we english speakers are lazy. Anyway, these YBAs have no shared style or purpose. They are mainly related by participating in a famous group show put together by students from Goldsmiths College in London, led by an entrepreneurial Damien Hirst. More group shows followed, more artists joined and, with the patronage of Charles Saatchi, the YBAs very quickly became a phenomenon.
Imagine having the moniker “Young” forever associated with you. It must be weird hitting your fifties and people still calling you a Young British Artist. I know how they feel. For decades people have pointed at me yelling “Tremendously Wise And Talented”. Sure it’s flattering but … ok, I’ll be honest, it’s great.
In the cartoon I show some Very Young British Artists at Goldsmiths making some very juvenile mental connections, together with their teacher Michael Craig-Martin. Given the variety and success of his pupils, Craig-Martin has gained a reputation, along with the American John Baldessari, as being one of the best art teachers of his generation. For a glimpse of how they went about things here’s a great conversation between them on the teaching of art. Craig-Martin, whom I have had the pleasure to MIRL several times, has a real curiosity about the world which is really stimulating. I doubt very much he would have acted as I have made him in the cartoon but I liked having him tell those famously Young artists to grow up.
Gary Hume first came to prominence with his paintings of doors, which lit the fires of many critics. Sarah Lucas’ provocative Self Portrait With Fried Eggs has become quite iconic. I couldn’t resist the Egon Schiele / egg on sheila rhyme. For those who don’t know, sheila is the correct term for woman.