What the YBAs Can Teach Us About Creativity


Who are they?

The Young British Artists (YBAs) emerged in the late 80s, and had a huge impact on modern art - not just in the UK, but globally.

I was reading this article about the YBAs on the Tate website, and two things struck me about them, which are interesting not just to artists, but other creatives too.

Radically interdisciplinary

Traditional art education is heavily siloed. Many of the YBAs studied at Goldsmiths, which was experimenting with breaking down the traditional art silos - painting, sculpture, print making etc.

Arguably this equipped the YBAs with a broader skill set, and an openness to working with many different materials. Innovation is usually at the intersection of two disciplines, and this is no different for artists.

Not only was the course important, but so were the support networks that were formed around it. Many of the YBAs were close friends - and that support network would’ve helped propel the work forward.

Bypassing Gatekeepers

The art the YBAs made was radical. It would’ve been totally out of place in most art galleries at the time. Also, many galleries had closed in the recession. So what did they do? They opened their own exhibitions in old warehouses and factories. Not only were they taking their work straight to the public, it also had an underground edge which added to the appeal of the work.

Other takeaways

The YBAs were just an entrepreneurial bunch of artists. Their art was significantly different - it soon became a talking point in the media. They weren’t afraid to go above and beyond the traditional role of the artist, into exhibition manager and curator. And whether they intended to or not, they created one of the few enduring art brands.