“art in the 1990s”

Art in the 1990s: the demise of the art critic

The 1990s were a decade marked by geopolitical changes, and the digital revolution, which created a new atmosphere in the art world. Digital connections allowed people from far-flung corners of the Earth to connect with one another, and inspired artists to look at their changing surroundings for subject matter for their pieces. Following the crash of the art market in 1991, the excess that surrounded works in the 1980s was replaced by the idea of conservation. Much of the art from the 90s was raw, digging into the issues of race, the AIDS crisis, gender, and sexual identity. With the celebrity of the Young British Artists and the globalisation of the art scene, everything in the art world was changing. Prior to this, the art world was uncomplicated, with clearly delineated roles. Artists would create their works, which were managed by their art dealer, who acted as a long-term advisor and manager, and the works would be shown in their gallery. For an artist to sell their works at auction would be unheard of; auction houses participated mainly in the secondary market, holding public auctions. Galleries functioned as links to antiquities and classical art. With the digital boom making the world ever smaller, these defined roles were transformed. Role Changes The function of the auction house drastically changed. They all but took over the responsibility of galleries by regularly hosting sales exhibitions, selling fresh work directly from the studios, in their locations. Artists were no longer tied down to one art gallery or art dealer, they could be represented by more than one, or none at all, as is the case of Banksy. Galleries hosted curated exhibitions, fluffed with loaned works, and exchanged new works by artists, as well as selling them on the secondary market. The birth of...

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Art in the 90s: the rise of Eco-design

The end of the 20th century was a time of rapid industrialisation in China. It was noted on the world stage that if Asian countries started to pollute at the same rate as the Western world, then the environmental disasters predicted in the 1970s would come true much earlier than expected. The seriousness of the situation was acknowledged across the world culminating in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, during which the UN drew up the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The field of design, caught between the arts and industry, was directly affected by this need to re-evaluate our gas-guzzling, polluting lifestyle. The 1990s were therefore characterised by the development of the theory of Eco-design, prompted by the article “Design for a Sustainable World” (1988) written by the design historian Victor Margolin and published in Design Issues, and similarly by the work Ecological Design (1996) by Sim van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan which talks of the integration architecture, urbanism and technology in the natural world. The trigger for this wave of thinking had been Ian McHarg’s book Design with Nature (1969), which had laid down the base considerations for environmentally-aware design (soil, climate, hydrology). Nowadays his theories have become the inspiration for the first principle of Smart Cities: harmonisation with nature. Generally in Eco-Design the production of an object should factor in the base material, manufacturing, distribution, usage, waste materials, issues with production or issues with use. Therefore initially, Eco-design was not characterised so much by formal theories or trends but rather by recyclable materials, production processes and environmental impact. As such its status as a separate design movement appears confusing. Sustainable Design Eco-Design was firstly distinguished by the materials which it employed. Whilst 15 to 20% of plastic is recycled, it takes...

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Art in the 1990s: the globalisation of the art market

The Cartier Foundation in Paris is currently hosting an exhibition dedicated to Congolese paintings. By tracing these works that have been created in a period spanning nearly one century, “Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko” aims to reveal the artistic richness of Congolese artists. This exhibition is part of a larger craze for contemporary art coming from the African continent. Giles Peppiatt, expert in contemporary African art at Bonhams, describes Africa as “the China of tomorrow”, making reference to its growing art market. The large auction houses such as Bonhams and Sotheby’s are very interested in artists coming from the African continent, with the goal of uncovering new talents. This interest is very recent and due to a general movement towards globalisation of the art market. It has operated since 1990 under numerous factors: economic growth in certain Third World countries, put in place by democratic regimes and the development of the Internet and tools of communication. As Raymond Moulin emphasises: the art market has become a global market that no longer functions as national markets juxtaposed alongside one another. This evolution was an upheaval, profoundly modifying the economic model of the art market. The notion of globalisation can be used to account for its upheavals: it is a trend that unifies the markets. In order to understand the current art market, it is necessary to question this notion: it is necessary to understand is origins but also to establish its degree. Is it total globalisation or does the art market retain a certain heterogeneity? Has the attraction of “exoticism” totally modified the existing hierarchy in the art market? The 1990s were the occasion for important geopolitical upheavals – notably with the fall of the Soviet Union – which have allowed for non-Western artists to make their creations known. The Chinese example can illustrate...

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