by Julian Opie
C-type colour print on paper laid on panel, 2000
34 1/8 in. x 29 7/8 in. (868 mm x 758 mm)
Given by the Art Fund, 2001
Sitterback to top
- Steven Alexander ('Alex') James (1968-), Musician; bassist for Blur. Sitter in 5 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Alex James, Damon Albarn, Dave Rowntree and Graham Coxton formed the band Blur in 1989. Both Alex James and Graham Coxon were art students at Goldsmith's College, London and have maintained contact with their fellow YBA artists. This set of portraits was commissioned for the album cover of Blur: The Best Of (2000). Opie created the ‘digital drawings’ by sketching onto photographs of the band, reducing their features to the minimum of detail and block colour. They were made in three sizes of which this is medium; the 'small' set belongs to the band.
Linked publicationsback to top
- I-Spy National Portrait Gallery, 2010, p. 57
- 100 Portraits, p. 139
- Howgate, Sarah; Nairne, Sandy, A Guide to Contemporary Portraits, 2009, p. 46 Read entry
The band Blur was formed in 1989. Their chart-topping album Parklife (1994) announced the band’s leading position in the Brit Pop movement. Opie’s ‘digital drawings’ were commissioned for the cover of their ‘best of’ compilation in 2000. His signature style has the effect of neutralising the star status of his subjects, an effect well suited for the band’s ‘boys-next-door’ image. The commercialisation of the portraits, on hoardings, T-shirts and CDs, has provoked intense Warholesque debate about the relationship between high art and commercial art.
- Nairne, Sandy; Howgate, Sarah, The Portrait Now, 2006, p. 77 Read entry
Opie employs his signature flat style to create this portrait of Blur, England's much-adored pop band. Taking the cover of Blur's 'Best of Blur' album (2000), the portraits have become an iconic image in pop history and culture. Opie says, 'I try to make a universal symbol for each individual I draw.' Opie's ability to make recognizable portraits of well-known people through the use of simple features and heavy black lines, generated through sophisticated computer editing, has the effect of neutralizing the star status of his subjects, an effect well-suited for the band known for the 'boys-next-door' image. Opie's use of brightly coloured monochromatic backgrounds gives the portraits a lively sense of energy.
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 259 Read entry
Alex James (b.1968), Damon Albarn (b.1968), Dave Rowntree (b.1964) and Graham Coxon (b.1969), formed the band Blur in 1989, when Albarn, Coxon and James were students at Goldsmiths College. Their chart-topping album Parklife (1994) announced the band’s leading position in the era of Brit Pop. Further albums included The Great Escape (1995), Blur (1997) and 13 (1999). The band members have also pursued individual projects in musical theatre, politics, journalism, broadcasting and cheese-making. After a period of hiatus, a reinvigorated band headlined the Glastonbury Festival in 2009 and performed to large crowds in Hyde Park, London, in 2009 and 2012.
With the exception of photographs, opportunities for the Gallery to acquire portraits of pop bands by leading artists are rare. This work was originally commissioned by the band for the cover of their album Blur: The Best Of (2000). Created by British artist Julian Opie (b.1958), whose graphic language is derived from signage and advertising, the image was, appropriately, reproduced on billboards and merchandise to promote the album. Opie made ‘digital drawings’ by sketching on to photographs of the band and reducing their features to the minimum. Befitting their celebrity, the image presents the individual band members as instantly recognisable and yet completely unknowable.
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- Sir James Dyson by Julian Opie: New Commission (6 August 2011 - 2 January 2012)
Events of 2000back to top
Current affairsThe world celebrates the start of a new millennium. Britain marks the occasion with a series of new buildings and landmarks including the Millennium Dome, the London Eye, the Millennium Bridge, and the Millennium Stadium. While the Dome was criticised by politicians and the public for wasting public funds, and the Bridge suffered initial stability problems, other projects have become major landscape and public attractions.
Art and scienceTate Modern opens as a national gallery of international modern art under the directorship of Nicholas Serota. The gallery, housed in the former Bankside Power Station, took the novel step of arranging the collection by theme rather than chronologically. As well as the collection galleries, Tate Modern has two large temporary exhibition spaces, and commissions installation projects for the enormous Turbine Hall.
InternationalBritish troops are deployed to Sierra Leone to establish order and evacuate foreign nationals from the country torn apart by civil war. Following a ceasefire President Kabbah declared the civil war officially over in 2002.
George W. Bush becomes President of the United States after a close election where he lost the popular vote, but won the electoral vote thanks to a controversial Supreme Court decision on Florida.
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