it was about being young, about being excited about what they were doing
– Artist and art tutor Michael Craig-Martin on the 1988 Freeze exhibition by theYoung British Artists.
The young age of the YBAs was key part of the excitement they brought to the art world. Now we look back nostalgically at them for their youthful, fresh ambition, underscored by the fact that ‘Twenty years ago they were all, as Craig-Martin puts it, ‘insanely young’. ’
Of the group, The Guardian’s Jessica Berens says ‘For the first time, younger artists were taken seriously, and as the recession lifted and wealth infused the culture of ideas, art became stock and this new group began to be taken very seriously indeed. ’
But even before the YBAs paved the way for younger artists to be taken seriously, we have long been fascinated with artists in their early years and the potential they can bring. History admires Monet for entering into Le Havre art school aged 11. Whilst aged 14, Picasso painted Portrait of Aunt Pepa, a portrait described by Spanish art critic Juan Eduardo Cirlot as without a doubt one of the greatest in the whole history of Spanish painting.
What is the importance of youth in art?
Do we have a romanticised view of artists when they are young?
Or is this just part of wider societal fixations with youth?
Tate Debate sponsored by Vodafone