Pick up Some Smart Art: Six Young British Artists to Watch
by Olivia Cole
17 July 2009
Where to put your money? The banks are unrewarding, the markets still alarmingly unpredictable - but invest wisely in an emerging artist, and the value, says London dealer Max Wigram, "is never going to go down". All of a sudden, art seems a safe bet.
The original Young British Artists, from Tracey Emin to Marc Quinn via Damien Hirst and Sam Taylor-Wood, made Shoreditch, Waterloo Road and Hackney their own. Now in London, there's a new generation with their eye on smart new small investors.
Josh Lilley, whose show of emerging painters, Daily Miracles, at his gallery in Fitzrovia, has caught the eye of Charles Saatchi, says: "Buying a piece at the start of their career is a great way to build a real dialogue and have a relationship with an artist."
Eleven, the contemporary gallery run by Charlie Phillips and Laura Parker Bowles, knows that now is the time collectors and aspiring collectors may be tempted to pick up "smart art".
This month, conveniently over the road from Scott's, they've got a pop-up gallery, Eleven at 100 Mount Street. Paradise Row, where our artists were photographed, is planning a more affordable show, Play Time, to coincide with the bigger spending that will go on during Frieze Art Fair in October.
The smart artists and their smart collectors know buying talent while it's young and cheap is a wise move.
Saatchi recently invested in Royal Academy graduate Nick Goss, snapping up two large paintings for £3,500 a piece.
If you're doing more than dipping your toe into the marketplace, you need advice. Wigram says: "If you don't know anything about art, investing in it should be only 20 per cent of your portfolio. If you do know something about art it could be as much as 40-50 per cent."
Tracey Emin says the first piece of work she sold "was a self-portrait, really badly painted and I sold it for £5." At a recent dinner party, she was surprised to see it on the wall. "It had changed hands 10 times since then." It's fair to say the collector wouldn't have paid £5 for the work.
I once spent the contents of my bank account on a drawing. We might only have been talking about £300 but my friend Dora has gone on to do well. But so much for being savvy - I'd find it hard to part with her eerie drawing of a high-windowed derelict school, however many zeroes it increased by.
From Dalston to Notting Hill via Peckham to Hackney, the Standard tracked down six baby YBAs to watch.
NICK GOSS, 27
Trained: the Slade, and graduating soon from the Royal Academy.
Cost: from £2,500 to £5,000 for very large pieces.
Where: Recently in the Daily Miracles painters show at a new gallery for emerging artists, Josh Lilley Fine Art in Fitzrovia. Lilley's co-director, agent/curator Flora Fairbairn, sells regularly to Charles Saatchi.
Collected by: Saatchi, and the "Saatchi of the North", Frank Cohen.
What he does: Some say Peter Doig meets Disney. Goss paints lush beautiful backgrounds, which show "liminal spaces" - spaces to which nobody usually pays any attention, taking a more romantic view of them.
Then, bizarrely, cartoon characters pop up, giving a spooky take on the detritus of modern life and the contrasting beauty and prosaic shabbiness of urban landscapes.
An abandoned fairground in Bolivia recently provided inspiration - as well as jaunts to the North Pole. If that's not enough, his band, My Sad Captains (named after a Thom Gunn poem), released their debut album, Here Elsewhere, just weeks ago.
What he says: "I always say little steps at a time. It is exciting to have interest already. Some people see the urban element in my work but to me there's also a strong sense of escapism.
"The landscapes that I travel to become different once I am back in my studio in London. With the characters that I find and use, too, there's also a real sense of nostalgia for childhood. An RA student with an album. Yeah ... I suppose it is quite funny."
NATASHA LAW, 38
Trained: Camberwell College.
Cost: from £600 for a drawing up to £6,000 for her large paintings.
Where: Eleven Fine Art, the Eccleston Street gallery run by Charlie Phillips and Laura Parker Bowles.
Collected by: Kim Cattrall, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jonny Lee Miller.
What she does: Cool lines and lithe forms painted with household paints on aluminium nod towards Gary Hume, the "quiet man" of the original YBA movement, and beyond that pop artist Tom Wesselman.
However, her work is motivated by a girl's appreciation of the female form so that it has a sensuality and an intimacy that's all its own.
What she says: "There were facets of female beauty that I really wanted to put down. At music festivals I always used to be struck by an ease that girls have with their bodies. As a girl there are certain parts of being a girl that I'm interested in exploring."
ANNIE KEVANS, 36
Trained: Central St Martins.
Cost: around £2,800 for a large canvas.
Where: Working towards a solo show at the Fine Art Society in Bond Street in November.
Collected by: Charles Saatchi, Marc Quinn, David Roberts and playboy Jean Piggozi.
What she does: Sex meets politics. Saatchi bought her degree show in its entirety. The paintings were a series of spooky portraits of dictators when they were young and innocent. Her studies of female sexuality have tapped into an equally unsettling mode of work.
Girls (2006) showed child stars from Brooke Shields to Britney Spears and her current project explores the old school Hollywood. Has long been adept at picking subjects that unsettle.
Her recent show in the US at the Armory Fair was All the President's Girls, a series of portraits of every presidential mistress, from JFK's dalliance with Marilyn Monroe to Monica Lewinsky. It sold out in 48 hours to major American collectors.
What she says: On her Hollywood series: "Girls with no acting abilities were picked by men and turned into stars. Joan Crawford was a success but there were loads that didn't make it" .
On her US show: "I wanted to show that while they are making life-and-death decisions about war, Presidents have often been busy writing love letters. I also wanted to explore the way in which, in the past, so much of this would have remained private.
"Even in the case of JFK, the affairs weren't known about at the time. On his brother's orders a lot of his love letters were destroyed."
NATASHA ARCHDALE, 32
Trained: Cambridge Arts and Sciences, and during an extreme period of convalescence.
Cost: from around £10,000 to £15,000 for a depiction of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff, which this month sold to an anonymous collector.
Where: a sell-out debut show Newspaper Nudes, two years ago, led to non-stop commissions. Her work has piqued the interest of Haunch of Venison dealer Harry Blain.
Collected by: Dorrit Moussaieff, first lady of Iceland, who sat for her. Stephen Schwarzman, one of the biggest collectors in the US and founder of private-equity group Blackstone, commissioned a portrait of his wife Christine. Natasha and singer James Blunt became an item after he sat for her.
What she does: In the boom years she made her name doing the naked wives and girlfriends of City figures, made from shredded pages of the FT, sometimes even detailing their greatest deals.
She found her medium which she terms "Financial Times Nudes" by accident. Already a life drawing specialist, 10 years ago she broke her back in a car accident.
"Bored in hospital, I experimented with drawing a self-portrait but did not have art materials to hand; only magazines and a copy of the Financial Times by my bed.
"I decided to stick torn-up fragments of the newspaper to create shading using a collage technique.
"My first exhibition was a sell-out and now I am flat-out fulfilling commissions. I use particular photographs and articles to feature in a piece depending on the client."
Other subjects include Nelson Mandela and, most recently, an inspired portrait of Bernie Madoff made entirely from the ire that poured forth in the pages of the newspapers.
What she says: "In a recession serious art collectors start to take a good look at emerging artists and I feel very proud to be considered to be one of those. I think my work may be appealing because it is so topical."
TOM GALLANT, 32
Trained: Camberwell College of Art and Design.
Cost: up to £5,000.
Where: currently Tom's collages based on Andy Warhol have been seen at Warholesque at the Richard Young Gallery and in the Brompton Borders show.
Collected by: Richard and Judith Greer, famed in the art world for their interest in emerging artists.
What he does: He uses origami and collage techniques on vintage and new porn, to make strikingly beautiful, delicate images. Look closely and they are extremely rude. If you're wondering why he's so obsessed, apparently it's the language of story-telling, modern-day fairy stories and the "language of pornography" that he's interested in.
DOUGLAS WHITE, 32
Trained: Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, Chelsea, and Royal College of Art.
Cost: from £950 up to £20,000 for his largest sculptures.
Where: recently had a solo show, Elephant Totem Song, at Tracey Emin's favourite young gallery Paradise Row, Bethnal Green. At Frieze, he'll be in the satellite Play Time show.
Collected by: Jemima Khan, David Roberts and Frank Cohen.
What he does: Douglas connects poetry to the world of found sculpture. Elephant Totem Song is inspired by Ted Hughes's apocalyptic vision of the world, Crow. His reliance on poetry is genuinely unusual.
In the show, his second for the gallery, parallels are drawn between the sculptures and the poem, where an elephant is destroyed by hyenas jealous of his beauty and peace with the world.
The sculptures are made from a single fallen beech tree White found in the woods and excavated, even using the roots.
The works reuse the material just as the elephant in the form violently changes his form.
One towering piece, Elephant Star, uses wax and light to recreate a huge moon and is priced £20,000.
What he says: Though he uses recycled material, he says his agenda is less eco-friendly than aesthetic: "This show was inspired by Africa. I was amazed by the sculptural quality of objects I found like elephant skins."
Ms Khan, who bought a smaller moon piece for £6,000, "was brilliant. She commissioned the work and I installed it - it looked great".