A diverse art movement that dominated the art market in Europe and the United States during the early and mid-1980s. Neo-Expressionism comprised a varied assemblage of young artists who had returned to portraying the human body and other recognizable objects, in reaction to the remote, introverted, highly intellectualized abstract art production of the 1970s. The movement was linked to and in part generated by new and aggressive methods of salesmanship, media promotion, and marketing on the part of dealers and galleries. Neo-Expressionist paintings themselves, though diverse in appearance, presented certain common traits. Among these were: a rejection of traditional standards of composition and design; an ambivalent and often brittle emotional tone that reflected contemporary urban life and values; a general lack of concern for pictorial idealization; the use of vivid but jarringly banal colour harmonies; and a simultaneously tense and playful presentation of objects in a primitivist manner that communicates a sense of inner disturbance, tension, alienation, and ambiguity (hence the term Neo-Expressionist to describe this approach). Among the principal artists of the movement were the Americans Julian Schnabel and David Salle, the Italians Sandro Chia and Francesco Clemente, and the Germans Anselm Kiefer and Georg Baselitz. Neo-Expressionism was controversial both in the quality of its art products and in the highly commercialized aspects of its presentation to the art-buying public.
Young British Artists
In the late 1980s British art entered what was quickly recognised as a new and excitingly distinctive phase, the era of what became known as the Young British Artists (YBA); It’s the name given to a loose group of visual artists who first began to exhibit together in London, in 1988. Belonging to no particular movement, medium or style of art, they included a diverse mix of painters, sculptors, video/installation artists and photographers, with no shared characteristics other than their youth, their nationality and their involvement in contemporary art. Their work is often called Britart. YBAs came to notice because of three art exhibitions: Freeze (1988) and Modern Medicine (1990), both curated by an unknown Goldsmiths’ College art student called Damien Hirst (b.1965), andSensation (1997), held at the Royal Academy. From 1988 onwards, the principal YBA sponsor was the millionaire collector Charles Saatchi, whose patronage helped to make London the European capital of postmodernism.
In the 1980s there was a renewed interest in thePop Art of Andy Warhol and contemporaries. Warhol died in 1987, but he had long before inspired a while generation of new artists. It should be noted that Neo-Pop Art is not really a new art movement, but rather an evolution of the old Pop Art movement.
Neo-Pop Art consists of a revised form of Pop Art adapted from its forefathers, a rebirth of recognizable objects and celebrities from popular culture with icons and symbols of the present times. Excellent examples areKatharina Fritsch‘s 1993 sculpture “Rat-King” and Jeff Koon‘s 1988 sculpture: “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”.
Neo-Pop Art tends to criticize and evaluate Western Culture, values, relationships, and interactions, frequently poking fun at celebrities and openly embraces ideas that are provocative and controversial.
What we call Neo-Pop Art is certainly not a movement but a convenient way of classifying this new list of diverse artists. The work of these artists also draws inspiration from Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Photorealism, Installation/Performance Art and more. The original Pop Art movement was boundary breaking and avant garde whereas Neo-Pop Art is not a new style, but a dramatic and controversial evolution of the previous generation. It could also be called “Shock Pop Art”.