Waldemar Januszczak reviews Gregor Muir’s book on YBA’s

One of my favourite critics, the eloquent

Where all this becomes pertinent rather than self-pitying is in colouring in the grim social landscape from which the YBAs emerged. The class angers that triggered this emergence have never been properly understood for the simple reason that most art commentators come from somewhere very different. The divide between the Tate crowd and this crowd was positively Dickensian. Hirst, from Leeds, was the son of a single Irish mum and an unknown itinerant father. Emin’s dad was a Turkish Cypriot, and the neighbours in Margate regularly abused her mother as a “darkie-lover”. Sarah Lucas grew up in the Holloway Road and was a classic north London layabout with a huge mouth and a tiny education.

No cast list as dysfunctional as this had ever been ushered onto the stage of British art before. Nor was anyone actually ushering them onto the stage this time. The entire YBA phenomenon is presented here as an outrageous display of gate-crashing. Finding their own spaces, putting on their own shows, cobbling together home-made art from whatever was at hand in the local skip, making their own posters, deciding on their own subject matter, blagging their way into derelict properties, hunting down the free beer, the great unwashed had found a smuggler’s route into the art world.

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