Special “Eye” to Watch
June Mattingly // contributing art writer

The Nasher Sculpture Garden’s
addition to their garden –
a Michael Craig-Martin
in conjunction with the celebration of the
Goss-Michael Foundation’s new headquarters

Since its founding in 2007, this actively collecting foundation has featured the work of
Michael Craig-Martin. British art from the last 20 years is so incredibly important; Craig-Martin’s
position in the art world is not just as a major living artist but as an inspiring teacher.
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Craig-Martin’s work is in many public collections including the Museum of Modern Art
and the Tate Gallery. The Gagosian Gallery represents his work. His computer portrait
(2010) of Lady Laura Burlington, the daughter-in-law of the Duke of Devonshire, now
hangs in Chatsworth, the stately Tudor mansion near London beside portraits by
Gainsborough, Reynolds and Sargent as a permanent addition.   

One of the visitors to “Freeze” was Charles Saatchi, a collector who invented the
name Young British Artist. Saatchi’s collection was so immense and global that
when he purchased or divested himself of major works of a particular artist it had
a significant upward/downward effect on the art market worldwide. Media
attention from Saatchi-sponsored exhibitions such as “Sensation” at London’s
Royal Academy of the Arts and in Berlin also contributed to the YBAs’ success.  
“Garden Fork (Red),”2008, steel and aluminum, in the garden of the
Nasher Sculpture Center on loan through March
Installation shots from Goss-Michael Foundation’s previous location.
Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941. After receiving undergraduate and graduate
degrees from Yale’s School of Art and in 1966 he moved to London. He is especially
noted for teaching the Young British Artists in the 80s at Goldsmith’s College
(1974-1988, 1994-2000) and being instrumental in the historical exhibit “Freeze”
(1988) on a Docklands in which 16 of his students including Sarah Lucas, Julian
Opie, Gary Hume, Angus Fairhurst, Richard Patterson, Damien Hirst and Fiona
Rae participated. Hirst, the main organizer of “Freeze,” set an example of
artist-as-curator and artist-run exhibition spaces in the 90s; he went on to
become the world’s most expensive living artist selling a piece for 160 million
at Sotheby’s in 2008. All of these artists are in the GMF.   

“Oak Tree,” (the 1970s), his seminal piece was a glass of water standing on a
shelf attached to a gallery wall next to a text using a semiotic argument as to why
it was in fact an oak tree. Craig-Martin’s first retrospective took place in 1989 at the
Whitechapel Gallery in London. Since the 1990s he’s especially known for his complex
installations of acrylic wall paintings of stylized images of everyday objects of boldly
outlined black lines of equal width in unexpected vivid color combinations. Titles like
“16 Objects, Ready or Not” (1999), an ironic reference to DuChamp’s “readymades”
at the Museum of Modern Art catch his delightful sense of humor.
Installation shots from Goss-Michael Foundation’s previous location.
This generation of British artists’ status rose in the US with the full scale exhibition
(22 artists) “Brilliant,” in 1995 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis making
them a stronghold with non-British Neo-Conceptual artists. The opening of the
Tate  Modern in London lauded Hirst and Tracey Emin, in the GMF collection
and the YBA’s main provocateurs.

An event to cause intense media coverage of young Britainartists is the Turner
Prize (founded in 1984 and named after the painter J.M.W. Turner); several YBAs
were winners. As of 2004, 40 pounds is the amount of the monetary award. Every
year four artists under 50 are nominated whose work is then exhibited at the Tate
Britain.  A panel of judges is chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate
Modern. Winners of this prize in the Foundation and/or the Nasher include:
Anish Kapoor, Richard Long, Hirst, Gillian Wearing and Gilbert & George.

Galleries in London which show contemporary British artists to visit: Gagosian,
White Cube, Victoria Miro, Maureen Paley, Karsten Shubert, Timothy Taylor  
and Lisson.  Next mid-October put in your plans, “Frieze,” no real connection
to “Freeze,” the very important international contemporary art fair in London,
except as a play on words by the fair founders.