Saturday, February 04, 2017

Yes, but is it art?

25 years on from the first in a series of era-defining shows put on at the Saatchi Gallery, how to assess the merit and legacy of the works of the Young British Artists, now Middle-Aged British Artists?

According to Robert Barry, writing for the Quietus, they didn't produce much of worth, were incorrigible self-promoters and are arguably responsible for initiating "the gentrification of the East End, the growing inseparability of art and speculative finance, the commercial sponsorship of appropriation, and the many silences and exploitative practices stemming from and circulating around art as a business".

And yet he's surely right to flag up as a significant achievement the way they managed to drag conversations about art from exhibition spaces, exclusive coteries and specialist publications and into the mainstream media. Even if much of the reporting was framed in sceptical, negative terms, it nevertheless got "ordinary" people talking and thinking about what art is, should be or should do - and for that much the YBAs should be commended.

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