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24 September 2014

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Going for gold: the goldsmiths story...

Turn up the CV of any prize-winning modern artist such as Damien Hirst or Antony Gormley and you'll find a reference to a certain south-east London art college.

Inside the Visual Arts department at Goldsmiths CollegeThis is Goldsmiths - and the 'Goldsmiths effect' has propelled a significant number of its graduates over the last few decades to international recognition.

Carol Murphy examines the factors that set this creative hothouse apart from all the others....

1. Goldsmiths: history
Goldsmiths College is situated in New Cross SE14. It was founded in 1891 and has been part of the University of London since 1904.

Print and dye workshop at Goldsmiths CollegeThe art college is part of the Visual Arts department, which specialises in fine art and textiles practice as part of 'a continuing and transformative undertaking'.

Within fine art circles just to say that you have studied here is sufficient to add kudos to both the work you produce and your position in Britain as an artist.

2. Goldsmiths: teaching
Although the teaching staff includes such important British artists as Millard Professor Victor Burgin, a 1986 Turner Prize nominee, and the painter and professor Gerard Hemsworth, it is undoubtedly the artist and Emeritus Professor of Fine Art Michael Craig-Martin who has been the greatest influence on the emergent Young British Artist (YBA) talent at Goldsmiths.

'Painting', 1999 Screenprint 38 x 48 cm Edition of 100Hailing originally from Dublin, Craig Martin is a successful artist in his own right who first achieved prominence in Britain in the late 60s. His paintings display a definite attraction to the aesthetics of Pop Art (see right).

He has taught at Goldsmiths on two separate occasions between 1974 ­ 88, and again as Millard Professor between 1994 - 2000. In 2001 he was awarded a CBE.

3. Goldsmiths: the enfant terrible
In the late 80s and early 90s economic recession caused several private galleries and public spaces to either languish or close. In this climate there were few opportunities for young artists and graduates to be offered a show or a platform for their talent.

Goldsmiths graduate Damien HirstArtists began to develop an aggressive, entrepreneurial spirit with graduates from Goldsmiths among those who bypassed the system to successfully set up exhibitions and artist-run spaces on shoe-string budgets, such as the Chisenhale, Matts Gallery and City Racing.

The most audacious and ambitious of all the Goldsmiths students was Damien Hirst (see right). In August 1988 he curated his fellow artists and Goldsmiths students in the now legendary Freeze show at the Port of London Authority building in the East End.

"They were so unlike any other student shows," recalls Michael Craig-Martin, "so full of energy and ambition".

4. Goldsmiths: the Saatchi connection
Former advertising guru Charles Saatchi (see below) was - and is - an impulsive private dealer and collector who stalked degree shows and galleries of the East End for ever-new work.

Art collector and dealer Charles SaatchiAlthough Hirst had exhibited at the ICA before his first show at the original Saatchi Gallery in St Johns Wood, it was Saatchi who provided the patronage and more.

Not only Hirst but fellow Goldsmiths graduates, such as Sarah Lucas, Sam Taylor-Wood, Mark Wallinger, Gillian Wearing and Angus Fairhurst now found money, marketing and PR muscle behind them.

5. Goldsmiths: the Brit Art explosion
With an energy and in-yer-face directness rivalled only by Punk in the 70s, London played host to an explosion of YBA talent in the 90s.

What happened is the stuff of legend. But the Brit Art brigade found itself supported by Sarah Kent at Time Out magazine, patronised by Charles Saatchi and then, in turn, by the fine art Establishment - and a large part of it had of course been nurtured in the creative hothouse of Goldsmiths College.

Turner Prize nominee Anya GallaccioHow's this for a roll-call? Turner Prize winners who graduated from Goldsmiths include Steve McQueen (1999), Gillian Wearing (1997), Anthony Gormley (1994) and Grenville Davey (1992)

Other shortlisted candidates who studied here include Anya Gallaccio (pictured right), Fiona Banner, Liam Gillick, and Jane and Louise Wilson.

Other famous alumni include Lucian Freud, Mary Quant and Bridget Riley.

Find more at:
Goldsmiths/visual arts
(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites). Undergraduate degree shows take place in June, Postgraduate shows in July. Both are open to the public on selected days.

In pictures: Antony Gormley's new 3D 'space drawing' at the White Cube gallery - more here>>

Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst exhibit together for the first time: more here>>

Now jump to our Galleries section for more on London's visual arts scene


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