• A young Damien Hirst

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 the Young 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


I think the role youth plays in art has a lot to do with the romanticized perception of "new."

My generation is seeing an age of incredibly sucsessful and extememly young people in art and in general. The proplem is that we're blinded by our love of the young, fresh and protogenic to the experince they lack.

I'm sixteen.


Agree with the above.

If you look for artist's competitions you will find that most of the competions for emerging artists are open to under 35. Does that mean that after that you've lost your chances to "emerge"? Working as an artist is a struggle and one can be an emerging artist even in their forties and fifties if that's the time it takes.

I read an interview with Massimiliano Gioni - associate director of the New Museum in New York - where he was saying that artists make their masterpieces before they're thirty. Well when you're young is about breaking from rules and sometimes this translates with creating something new but I think creating something new involves research and that comes with time and age. In fact there are many artists in their sixties and older who are kicking much harder than youth.

Apart from exceptional cases, I think that creating a masterpiece is about experience and maturity.

Youth is overrated. What is the point of promoting young artists when their best work is yet to come. Plug them too early and it may never arrive as you have removed the youth's incentive. This is a problem throughout society: too much given to youths resulting in ideas and behaviour bereft of experience.

The ethos of promoting youth comes from the USA where "Children are the future". That's true, but we have a present. Youth should be told to wait its turn and it is not wrong to do that. Unless of course the more mature person is now too afraid to do that.

It is possible that many authorities feel that by promoting youth, they are preserving their own.

I am 40 years of age; so not young but certainly not old. I am just now managing to make it as a commercial artist and it has been a hard slog. Remove the requirement for that and you continue art's and societies discardable nature

i'd say our obsession with 'youth talent' comes from a hope that new generations will bring something better to society than a current society has. we put high expectations on them to change things. which is unrealistic. and so it goes on.