Why the 1990s was the last golden age of culture

With Sensation at the Royal Academy in 1997, which opened amidst official talk of “Cool Britannia”, the movement reached its peak, and today, within the art world, it is often derided as ostentatious and silly. . However, the YBAs made contemporary art less elitist and generated an energy that other artists also benefited from, such as the “neo-conceptualists” grouped in Glasgow, who provided an important counterpoint and among whose ranks was Douglas Gordon.

For Ikon’s outgoing director, Jonathan Watkins, who, earlier in the decade, was a curator at London’s Chisenhale Gallery, the ’90s were a happier, more innocent time of Western self-confidence, bracketed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. and 9/11: “It was a bit like that time after the pill and before AIDS,” he tells me, “when everyone could be promiscuous and irresponsible.”

That growing sense of possibility inspired some of the decade’s most memorable and ambitious works of art, staged in unusual off-site spaces by London-based arts organization Artangel, such as the brilliant (and quickly destroyed) public sculpture House of Rachel Whiteread, a ghostly concrete building. cast of a Victorian terrace in East London which drew the ire of Parliament. These, rather than the media harassment work done by the YBAs, will continue to be the subject of debate for years to come. Alastair Sooke


British comedy blazed in the ’90s, the last full decade before social media came along and made everyone miserable. In 1991, a certain Frank Skinner eliminated a list that included Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard and Lily Savage, all future stars, to win the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe. Within three years, he and David Baddiel had created BBC Two’s Fantasy Football League, whose youthful humor fit right in with the carefree optimism of that decade and, in many ways, came to define it.

By this time, Baddiel was already a megastar in his own right. In 1993, on the back of the satirical radio-turned-TV show The Mary Whitehouse Experience, he and fellow Cambridge graduate Rob Newman packed the 12,000-capacity Wembley Arena, the first time a comedian had done so. Comedy, in Britain, had really become the new rock and roll.

By 1991, however, a separate and much more sophisticated strain of British comedy was also flourishing. That year, then-unknown Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris created a fake news show for Radio 4 called On the Hour, featuring a desperate sportscaster named Alan Partridge, played by a certain Steve Coogan.

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