Five works by the Young British Artists

It is 25 years since the YBAs, a ragtag gang of disobedient artists, exploded into the British consciousness. Here are five of their works to see across the country.


Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998

Perhaps the most notorious work to come out of the YBA era, My Bed was made by Tracey Emin in 1998 in the aftermath of a breakup. The work captures a moment of suicidal depression in Emin’s life, when she drank herself into a stupor. The bed is filthy and strewn with debris including blood-stained underwear and bottles of alcohol. It is an uncompromising and brutally honest self-portrait of the artist. 


Sarah Lucas, Self-portrait with Fried Eggs, 1996

Sarah Lucas’ ribald sense of humour hides a serious intent. Ever since she came to prominence in the mid 1990s, her art has confronted the objectification of the female body. A recurring theme in Lucas' work is food, often used as a substitute for body parts. This self-portrait, in which her breasts are covered by fried eggs, is a defiant image that throws slummy innuendo right back in the viewer's face.


Damien Hirst, Beagle 2, 2002

In the early 1990s, Damien Hirst embarked on an ongoing series called the Pharmaceutical Paintings, sometimes nicknamed 'the spot paintings'. Clinical, detached and following a strict code, they were, for the artist, a way of making art as scientifically as possible. Not surprising then, that when the Mars spacecraft Beagle 2 was launched, one of Hirst's spot paintings was used as the instrument calibration target. Beagle 2 landed on Mars in 2003, making Hirst the first artist to have an artwork on another planet. This painting is the flight spare.


Marc Quinn, Self, 2006

Marc Quinn’s Self is one of the defining works of the YBA era. First made in 1991, when Quinn was a recovering alcoholic, it featured in Saatchi’s Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997. The sculpture, which consists of freezing eight pints of the artist’s blood into a cast of his head, is recreated every five years, charting the artist’s ageing process.


Marcus Harvey, Maggie Island, 2015

This irreverent sculpture of Margaret Thatcher forms part of an exhibition by YBA Marcus Harvey that explores what it is to be British in these strange and troubling times. Harvey was the artist who faced an intense media furore after his picture of Myra Hindley was attacked by ink during the Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997. It cemented his reputation as a controversial artist, and it seems he hasn't mellowed yet.