The last decade of the 20th century saw some of the most controversial and diverse works of art ever conceived. Many artists who came to prominence in the 1990s freshly engaged with art and media, embracing the new technology that was radically altering everyday life. This moment opened up new frontiers and ways of seeing and came to define a generation. Each of the artists represented in A Collector’s Journey at the Turn of the Millennium are represented in prestigious museum collections, and their art speaks to this watershed moment in the history of art, with their art in many ways a product of these external forces.
Mythologized in history as the defining period for British Contemporary art, the 1990s were epitomized by the landmark show Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection which opened in the autumn of 1997 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The show brought together artists including Glenn Brown, Darren Almond, Mark Francis and Jane Simpson who were united in their new and radical attitude to realism. These works were at once subtle and potent interrogations of a new art landscape that would contribute to the ultimate evolution of the art historical canon.
The Saatchi Collection also brought to an international platform the emerging generation of German figurative painters in the Triumph of Painting series of exhibitions begun in 2005 which included the abstract architectural paintings of Thomas Scheibitz. Exploring public memory through his archive of appropriated mass media imagery, Scheibitz reflected a cross-section of artists who embraced a wealth of disparate art practices and movements in order to reflect daily experience defined by the rise of cable television, mobile phones, and the World Wide Web. Artists took to blurring the lines between disciplines and genres as evidenced in the geometric landscapes of Philip Allen, the jpeg paintings of Dan Hays or the silkscreened industrial signs of Scott Myles. Indeed as the digital age came into full swing, many artists responded by gravitating towards issues of tangible lived experience and identity with the artist acting as ethnographer, ideas explored in Lucy Skaer’s practice and the photography of Shirin Neshat.
Darren Almond (b. 1971); Fullmoon@Cascade; Lambda print; image: 47⅝ x 47⅝in. (121 x 121cm.); sheet: 49⅝ x 49⅜in. (126 x 125.5cm.); Executed in 2001, this work is number three from an edition of five. Estimate £3,000 - 5,000.
Photography, too, became more complex and diverse, with artists using the increasingly sophisticated tools of photo-manipulation to blur the lines between fact and fiction, or to conceive a more perfect reality. Where painting and drawing were once considered the preferred medium to record and share what we saw, photography solidified its role as the chosen medium for absolute visual truth – or not, as the case may be. The medium of photography moved beyond traditional parameters into the cinematic and even painterly as very large scale full colour photographs could be produced with extraordinary pin sharp detail, which allowed the medium to compete directly with painting in its pictorial ambition. Artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ori Gersht and Darren Almond each explored themes of time, memory and history in their photography using compositional techniques traditionally reserved for painting.
Several of the artists represented in A Collectors Journey at the Turn of the Millennium are featured in Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art online auction, which is open for bidding through October 20. These artists offer critical awareness and commentary on the current generation and the role art would play—questioning conventions of painting, photography and sculpture and exploring the relationships between art and reality.
Main Image: Thomas Scheibitz (b. 1968); Goldbeck; signed, titled and dated '"Goldbeck" 2006 Scheibitz' (on the overlap); oil on canvas; 118⅛ x 74¾in. (300 x 190cm.); Painted in 2006, this work is number three from an edition of five. Estimate £10,000 - 15,000.