Young British Artists 1980 – 2010

Term used to identify a group of British artists active in London from the 1980s to the late 1990s The term was derived from a series of six exhibitions, Young British Artists I to Young British Artists VI, held between March 1992 and November 1996 at the Saatchi Gallery, London The earliest core members of the group attended Goldsmiths’ College, London, in the late 1980s, under the tutelage of Michael Craig-Martin, Richard Wentworth and others The group rose to prominence through a mixture of precocious talent and self-promotion, encouraged by the patronage of new collectors, particularly Charles Saatchi The genesis of the YBAs can be traced to a 1988 warehouse show in London, curated by Damien Hirst and entitled Freeze Hirst exhibited works by himself and 15 of his fellow Goldmiths’ students, including Angela Bulloch, Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, Richard Patterson and Fiona Rae Subsequent group exhibitions cemented the artists’ reputations for independence, entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to manipulate the media; particularly the warehouse show Modern Medicine (1990), curated by Hirst and journalist Carl Freedman (b 1965), and Freedman’s Minky Manky (1995; London, S London AG)

The Young British Artists, or YBAs—also referred to as Brit artists and Britart—is the name given to a loose group of visual artists who first began to exhibit together in London, in 1988 Many of the artists graduated from the BA Fine Art course at Goldsmiths, in the late 1980s

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The scene began around a series of artist-led exhibitions held in warehouses and factories, beginning in 1988 with the Damien Hirst-led Freeze and, in 1990, East Country Yard Show and Modern Medicine

They are noted for “shock tactics”, use of throwaway materials, wild-living, and an attitude “both oppositional and entrepreneurial” They achieved considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the 1990s—international survey shows in the mid-1990s included Brilliant! and Sensation

Many of the artists were initially supported and collected by Charles Saatchi Leading artists of the group include Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin Key works include Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine, and Emin’s My Bed, a dishevelled double bed surrounded by detritus

The first use of the term “young British artists” was by Michael Corris in ArtForum, May 1992, although Saatchi entitled his exhibition as “Young British Artists I” already in March 1992 The acronym term “YBA” (or “yBa”) was not coined until 1996 (in Art Monthly magazine) It has become a historic term, as most of the YBAs were born in the mid-1960s