Charles Saatchi's collection of young British artists is one of the most celebrated collections of contemporary art in the world. 'But is it art?' was a frequent cry during the mid-90s, when he exhibited the works of artists such as Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn, Gavin Turk and Marcus Harvey. Artists such as these soon fulfilled their promise and consolidated their reputations, vindicating Saatchi's enthusiasm and their inclusion in this eclectic group. The book explores the ideas, aspirations and attitudes that inform each artist and the way that they are manifested in the end product. This publication, long out of print, remains an essential record of 35 artists that were collected by Charles Saatchi during the 1990s and is being reprinted to celebrate the opening of the new Saatchi Gallery later this year.
The book explores the ideas, aspirations and attitudes that inform each artist and the way that they are manifested in the end product.
This publication, long out of print, remains an essential record of 35 artists that were collected by Charles Saatchi during the 1990s and is being reprinted to celebrate the opening of the new Saatchi Gallery later this year.
'Art today makes approaches towards the unknowable... artists reflect something both psychological and social off that gaze, something that may hint at the face the future will present. In this activity artist and critic are linked in an intimate collaboration. The artist makes unverifiable hypotheses or intuitive proposals about the unknown, and the critic drives out into the verbal open their networks of implications.' Thomas McEvilley, 'Father the void' in 'Tyne International: a new necessity' 1990, p.133.
The name of this book is derived from Damien Hirst's extraordinary sculpture, 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,' 1992, a fourteen-foot tiger shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde. It is appropriate that Hirst should introduce this anthology, since he was responsible for making visible many of the artists included in these pages and, in many people's minds, has come to epitomize the wild boy whose shock tactics and cool media manner give art a high profile and a bad name. His presence emphatically colours the 20water.
In 1988 while still a student at Goldsmiths', Hirst organized 'Freeze,' an exhibition that included sixteen of his fellow students. This marked the beginning of a vital period of optimism and enthusiasm. The recession provided a plentiful supply of empty factories, warehouses and offices and young artists seized the initiative, raised funds and mounted further shows such as 'Modern Medicine' and 'Gambler' in these dramatic spaces.
Charles Saatchi had been collecting their work and bought Hirst's first major piece, 'A Thousand Years,' with its rotting cow's head and flies. Support of this kind is of incalculable value; it sustains energy and optimism. Whereas struggling in a vacuum is soul-destroying, the prospect of having one's work enter a major collection provides both a goal and a context; it generates hope. Damien Hirst's shark swam into view in the first show of Young British Artists mounted at the Saatchi Gallery in 1992 and attracted unprecedented media attention.
At first sight there seem to be few links between the thirty-five artists represented in this book. What possible preoccupations could be shared by a minimalist painter and a pickler of sharks? In writing about them, the author was determined not to impose artificial groupings. Despite their work being lumped together under the rubric of 'conceptualism,' often by those hostile to it, these artists do not form a group or a school. Many of them studied at Goldsmiths' and some are friends, but others have never met or even heard of one another. Kerry Stewart graduated only recently, Jenny Saville lives in Scotland, Carina Weidle has returned to Brazil and, although most of the others live in London, it is a big city. There is no cafe society or artists' meeting place and these people do not form a cosy coterie.