Where does British art go from here?

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The Independent Culture
Last year was an annus mirabilis for British art. Spearheaded by Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread, young British artists have taken Europe and the US by storm, London has been re-established as the world capital of contemporary art, and art itself has become an essential ingredient of popular culture in a way unseen since the Sixties. But can this high sustain itself or will 1996 see the bubble burst? We asked some of the main players in the British scene how we consolidate the predominance of the new British art, and who are the artists to look out for

Nicholas Serota, director, Tate Gallery

I'd like to see more museums and galleries put in a position where they could do something for the British artists who have shown so successfully in London and abroad in the past year. For instance, Gary Hume is having a big show in Maastricht, but has never had a big solo show in this country. Interesting artists are always shown abroad first.

I'd like to see some of the lottery money used to support living artists - either through commissions or purchases for major collections - rather than buildings. Acquisitions are a form of investment for the future, a way of ensuring that future generations can experience and understand the art being made now. Over the past 20 years it has been difficult for regional museums to acquire works by major contemporary artists. I'm talking about places like Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. Audiences outside London should have an opportunity to see the quality contemporary art exhibitions we have in the capital. If you go to Holland, for instance, you'll find four or five regional collections of contemporary art of international significance.

Another thing I'd like this year is for someone to sponsor a prize for art criticism, to encourage good writing. Perhaps the Jerwood Foundation would like to do that.

Michael Craig-Martin, senior tutor, Goldsmiths'

The success of British art in 1995 is clearly not just a flash in the pan. It should be able to sustain itself, but it needs home support to do that. It has some, but the British always seem to have to attack what's successful. Having said that, I think the whole relationship of the public to art has changed beyond recognition over the past few years. Art is now seen as part of an on-going contemporary culture in a way that theatre, literature and cinema used to be. It was marginal. Now it's central. I wouldn't like to single out any one artist as likely to succeed next year. I think the most interesting thing about the situation is the very fact that it's not focused on one person. Sure, Damien Hirst is now very famous, but he doesn't sum up everything that's going on. There are so many participants - at least 100 people. Just count up the numbers who have participated in the various celebrations of new British art at home and abroad in the past year. Of course, no one can predict what's going to happen. A lot of people thought the whole thing was going to flag. But it's managing to sustain itself and that's partly because there are so many people involved.

James Lingwood of Artangel

Such is the condition of British art now that by the end of 1996 artists will have emerged whom we simply could not have thought of at the moment. British art is developing unusually fast. There will be new co-ordinates on the map next year. But, given that, I think that there will be exciting developments in film and video - with more artists creating personal fictions and private fantasies. I'm looking forward to seeing what Douglas Gordon will do, as well as Georgina Starr and Sarah Lucas.

In the past two years the herd mentality that characterised British art has changed. We have seen individuals mature. Gary Hume, for instance, has reached a level where he is making an important mark internationally. But if you focus the spotlight too much on one particular genre of British art, you run the risk of ignoring or undervaluing other artists who may not particularly fit in. So I'm interested in seeing what Susan Hiller will do next year, and Craigie Horsfield and Tony Bevan.

This is an extremely energetic moment in British culture generally. There are historical parallels - in particular the mid 1960s when the painting scene was focused on the RCA. Some of those artists survived, some didn't.

Georgina Starr, artist

The way I see it, if we are going to keep things going in the way we managed in 1995, we need better writers about art. Better critics. The art critics we have just don't seem to understand or to even try to understand what we're doing. It would be great to get some writers in the national press who write for art magazines - people like Andrew Wilson from Art Monthly and James Roberts from Frieze. I'll also be interested in seeing how many artists will get involved in writing. I think there's going to be more of a crossover. Liam Gillick writes, and he's been around for a long time as an artist as well. He shows abroad, but hasn't really been seen here. I'd like to see a show of his work this year.

I think there are going to be more solo shows this year and that will be great. Group shows are important, but you can only get a real picture of an artist's work by viewing at least 10 or 12 pieces. It would also be good to see less of the small gallery scene and more branching out into new, even temporary, spaces.

Jake Chapman, artist (shown with his brother Dinos)

There are some really good students in the colleges. But one of the problems of the success of British art in 1995 is that curators will, inevitably, this year still be selecting the same people who represent the "happening London scene", and that's sad. People are still less keen to take a gamble on young artists. Jay Jopling has pointed the way in showing young artists, often in large spaces. I hope other young dealers come up in the same way this year.

I'm curating a show myself this March. It's called "Some of My Best Friends are Geniuses", and it includes the artists I think are the most interesting around at the moment. Some are known and some aren't. There are people like Russell Haswell and Sam Taylor-Wood, who I'm sure will be big this year. Maybe even Damien Hirst will get bigger. He'll become celestial.

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