press release

CREAM presents world-famous British art

CREAM, Kiasma’s main exhibition in 2010, will present the works of Damien Hirst and his contemporaries mainly from private Finnish collections. With Damien Hirst as their most prominent member, the Young British Artists (YBA) group heated up the world’s art market in the 1990s and made contemporary art a hot topic shared by the media and general public.

The exhibition will show works by 16 artists, most of whom started their career in London at the beginning of the 1990s. YBA was one of the most famous art phenomena of the era. In the 1990s, young British artists were like rock stars, and their artistic endeavours and personal relationships were followed by the art world and attracted wide media coverage.

The artists of the YBA group have each continued their separate careers through to this day, and the exhibition will also exhibit their current work. It will also expand on the prevailing view of British art of the 1990s by exhibiting other artists of the same generation alongside YBA.

Several works by Damien Hirst on display

The exhibition will include installations, paintings, sculptures and videos, mainly from Finnish, but also from British collections. Works by Tracey Emin and Helen Chadwick will be included from the Kiasma collection. The Cream exhibition will show works by Angela Bulloch, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Ian Davenport, Mark Francis, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Callum Innes, Chantal Joffe, Michael Landy, Sarah Lucas, Jason Martin, Julian Opie, Marc Quinn, Sam Taylor-Wood and Helen Chadwick.

YBA - What’s that?

In the 1990s, the British arts scene was shaken by a phenomenon known as Young British Artists (YBA). A group of young artists, with Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin as key figures, rose from obscurity to become contemporary art celebrities and the focus of attention of the media and the general public. It was a time of depression, and all of a sudden contemporary art was cool, the art market heated up and the eyes of the world’s art crowd were on London. What really happened?

It all began with a student exhibition

Generally considered as the starting point for the YBA phenomenon was an exhibition entitled Freeze, which Damien Hirst, then a second-year student of fine art at Goldsmiths, University of London, organised in 1988 in a former port building in London’s Docklands. In addition to Hirst, the exhibition presented 15 of his fellow students, including Angela Bulloch, Ian Davenport, Gary Hume, Michael Landy and Sarah Lucas, whose works are also on display at the Cream exhibition.

Saatchi’s protégés

The art collector and advertising mogul Charles Saatchi played an exceptionally large role in the emergence of the YBA phenomenon. After visiting the Freeze exhibition, Saatchi started to collect works of young artists and provide generous support, for example, to Damien Hirst in his work. Between 1992 and 1996, Saatchi organised a series of exhibitions in his London gallery under the title of Young British Artists, which gave the movement its name. Besides Saatchi, another important promoter of the phenomenon was Jay Jopling. He founded the White Cube gallery in London and has exhibited and dealt in works of the key YBA artists ever since the early 1990s.

Dead animals and kebab

YBA was not a clearly defined group and its representatives shared no particular style, technique or subject matter. However, their work was characteristically conceptual or “idea-based”, and they made use of everyday objects and extraordinary materials. The YBAs made works of art, for example, from cigarette butts, blood, furniture paint, eggs, kebab and dead animals. These characteristics link the YBA to the conceptual art of the 1960s and Marcel Duchamp’s readymade works before that. Many YBAs also drew on the traditions of abstract painting and pop art.

Whiffs of scandal

Sensation and questions about the ethics of art have followed the shows of YBAs. In 1997, the Royal Academy of Arts in London displayed art from the Saatchi collections in an exhibition entitled Sensation. Exhibits included Marcus Harvey’s portrait of the child killer Myra Hindley and installations by Jake and Dinos Chapman featuring naked child mannequins fitted with adult genitalia. The works sparked rage over child abuse and attracted huge media attention. The exhibition attracted more than 300,000 viewers. Of the works in the Cream exhibition, the installations by Michael Landy and Marc Quinn were also included in the Sensation exhibition.

An unholy alliance of money and art

The YBA set, Damien Hirst in particular, has often been accused of mass-producing art in a calculating manner. Hirst has broken price records with his works and openly admits to making art that sells. Commercialism has partly become the content of his art. The works, then, challenge us to think about the, allegedly unholy, marriage of art and money: can something commercial have depth? Is sensation-seeking art bad art?

The exhibition curators are Arja Miller and Satu Metsola. Cream was assembled with the generous assistance of Kiasma Foundation.

The exhibition will be open until 7 November on Kiasma’s 5th floor.

Kuratoren: Arja Miller, Satu Metsola

Künstler: Angela Bulloch, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Ian Davenport, Mark Francis, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Callum Innes, Chantal Joffe, Michael Landy, Sarah Lucas, Jason Martin, Julian Opie, Marc Quinn, Sam Taylor-Wood, Helen Chadwick ...