Elizabeth Fullerton


- Peter Conrad's ART books of the year, Observer



The Young British Artists -
A History


Artrage! came about through a conversation with the commissioning art editor at Thames and Hudson about the fact there hadn’t been an independent history of the BritArt period, despite the reams written about the group. The title came from a headline in The Sun “It’s an Artrage!” about the Royal Academy’s controversial 1997 exhibition Sensation.

The idea behind Artrage! was to chronicle the rise and fall of BritArt, explaining the social and cultural context of the period, looking at major works and important shows of the late 80s and 90s. But I also wanted to tell a broader account to highlight the diversity of the art produced - so it includes artists like Gillian Wearing, Rachel Whiteread and Douglas Gordon, as well as the more familiar names Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas.

I interviewed around 35 artists, as well as gallerists, museum directors, critics and tutors from Nicholas Serota to Michael Craig-Martin to Sadie Coles to Karsten Schubert. These testimonies are, I hope, one of the strengths of the book, which is peppered with anecdotes and the artists’ own stories behind famous artworks and shows.

The YBAs have polarised critical and public opinion enormously. 

My aim was to write an objective history that would situate the phenomenon in contemporary British art, examine its impact and look at where these artists are now. So few British movements have made their mark internationally. Whether you love or hate their art, consider the YBAs pioneers or cynical self-publicists, it’s undeniable that they revolutionised the way art was shown, seen and sold in Britain.


You can read extracts from Artrage! here...



"The book itself is interesting, an oral history, told by pretty much everyone who was there … It tells the story well, such that a sceptic like me, who thinks they already know everything, who went to Goldsmiths and bought the fried egg t-shirt, was left enlightened."

- i-d.vice.com

"Mess-making is the subject of Elizabeth’s Fullerton’s riotous Artrage!: The Story of the BRITART Revolution, which documents the antics of the upstart provocateurs who aimed, as the Chapman brothers declared, to unsettle civilisation and mock the notion that art has a moral purpose."

The Observer, Peter Conrad’s best art books of 2016

"This remains an excellent primer on the rise and fall, successes and failures of a moment in British art. It catches the brio of the people involved, charts the connections that they forged; the friendships, the fall-outs, the partner swapping"

The Herald

"Her account of the rise and rise of the now not-so-young British artists is a well-written as well as a necessary book. Students, researchers and curators looking back in years to come will be grateful for a publication that goes beyond cheering and sneering to document that period of British art history, and document it well."

— Farah Nayeri, culture writer for New York Times in London

"This is a sober account of an intoxicating time, but it is well researched and very readable …There is no escaping the fact that it has been the best 25 years in the history of British art."

Art Quarterly

"A vibrant account of how Hirst, Lucas, the Chapmans et al came to noisy prominence."

RA Magazine, The best new art books for summer

‘Fullerton writes about contemporary art in an engaging, exciting and insightful way. The Young British Artists could not have asked for a better biographer.’

— Ed Voves, Art Eyewitness

‘… a well-illustrated, studiously researched book’

— Alastair Sooke, Telegraph

"Fullerton is a former Reuters foreign correspondent and hasn’t forgotten how to tell a story. Her book is blessedly jargon-free and it does offer a clear account of the sequence of events that made up the YBA phenomenon."


"Back in the early 1990s, the British art world changed forever thanks to a band of bright young things that weren’t afraid of controversy, threw away the artworld rulebook and rewrote it in multimedia forms and tabloid headlines. Nearly 30 years on … Artrage! details that blistering scene and looks at its place today"

It’s Nice That