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The Market: YBAs (Young British Artists)

Coined in 1992 in Artforum, ‘Young British Artists’ (YBAs) labels a group of art-making London denizens including Damian Hirst, Fiona Rae, and Tracey Emin. Loosely formed in the late eighties the YBAs collectively began exhibiting in 1988 with the exhibition Freeze organized by Damien Hirst. Today Hirst is a world renowned, blue chip art star with an auction record high of $19.2M. At the time he was still attending Goldsmiths, University of London like most of the first-wave of YBAs.

Their subsequent rise was primed by a convergence of the school’s innovative teaching style, which rejected the strict separation of courses by medium, and the UK capital’s cultural lag behind vibrant, contemporary art focused cities like New York and Berlin. Lacking an energetic arts scene, the YBAs (Young British Artists) looked for ways to market themselves and showcase their work independently from the typical gallery and museum environments.

With no single unified style, the Young British Artists’ interdisciplinary approach draws from two major post-war movements: Conceptualism’s assertion that the concept is paramount and Minimalism’s idea that art should not be imitation or representation but it’s own separate entity entirely. YBAs openness to atypical materials and processes, as well as their art’s final form, led to breakthrough works like Rachel Whiteread’s concrete moulded House (1993), Tracey Emin’s intimate installation My Bed (1998), and Damien Hirst’s infamous formaldehyde shark The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991).

Damien Hirst, To Lose (Red Butterfly), 2008, 11.8 x 9.7 inches, Photogravure and aquatint printed in colours, Artist’s Proof. Available framed at Russell Collection Fine Art for $7,900.

Tracey Emin, I Promise to Love You, 2014, 28 x 20 inches, Poster on 250 gsm silk finish paper, Edition: Unnumbered of 500. Available framed at Russell Collection Fine Art for $1,600.

As the YBAs reputation disperses and their market continues to grow, the strong desire for works by Hirst, Emin, and Rae remain a vital part of the broader international contemporary art market. Recently acquired and available for viewing, unique and editioned works by these critical artists are exhibited at Russell Collection Fine Art.

The market for YBAs work was strong from the outset with notable collector-gallerist Charles Saatchi a key factor in their success. He promoted British art by amassing works by the crucial members of the Young British Artists as well as lesser known peripheral artists. Staging the YBAs exhibition Sensation at London’s Saatchi Gallery in 1997, he showcased his vast collection of 1st generation YBAs, like Fiona Rae, as well the second wave of Young British Artists – students of the Royal Academy of Art which included Tracey Emin.

Fiona Rae, Bewitched, 2001, 33 x 27.5 inches, Screenprint in colors with glitter on wove paper, Artist’s Proof. Available framed at Russell Collection Fine Art for $1,895.

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