Art of the 1990s


The robust art market of the 1980s was devastated in the wake of a stock market crash in 1987 and a severe recession in the early '90s. As a result, at the beginning of the decade, artists tended to look more outside the art world for their subject matter, which ranged from current issues such as the AIDS crisis, gun control, and homelessness to often-charged explorations of class, race, gender and sexual identity. This coincided with an emerging notion of artist as a kind of ethnographer, as well as an exploration of broken or grotesque bodies and identities, by the likes of Paul McCarthy and Kiki Smith. The most recognized movement of the decade, the Young British Artists (YBAs), rose to international recognition through ambitious and provocative works such as Rachel Whiteread's House and Damien Hirst's formaldehyde-encased animals, highlighted in the exhibition, "Sensation". In the 1990s, video art became more and more influential, especially due to works like Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle and large-scale video installations by artists such as Doug Aitken. Concurrently, artists (like Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall) used the increasingly sophisticated tools of photo-manipulation to blur the lines of fact and fiction (or make a more perfect reality).