HE’S A STARMAN! The 50 most influential British artists of the last 50 years revealed
David Bowie lands number one spot – in list that features Vivienne Westwood, Spice Girls and Michaela Coel
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• New list recognises renowned artists across five categories: Visual Arts, Literary Arts, Performing Arts, Music, and Film & TV
• David Bowie topped the list revealed today by Sky Arts, judged by a panel of esteemed experts chaired by Lauren Laverne. Judges included Kanya King CBE, Bonnie Greer and Ali Plumb
• Elton John, Sir Steve McQueen, Stormzy, Bernardine Evaristo and Harold Pinter also claim spots in the full list
• Winner Bowie celebrated with new artwork made of 8610 guitar plectrums
Britain's 50 most influential artists of the last 50 years have been revealed in a new list compiled by a panel of esteemed experts from across the arts industry.
Musician David Bowie landed the number one spot, in a list that also features artist Banksy, 90s pop sensation the Spice Girls and acclaimed director, screenwriter and actress Michaela Coel.
A team of expert judges across music, film & TV, performing arts, literature and visual art were challenged to create the list by TV channel Sky Arts in a celebration of British artists past and present and their influence on global culture.
The 15-person judging panel, led by DJ, presenter and author Lauren Laverne, included MOBO Awards founder Kanya King CBE, acclaimed writer Bonnie Greer, film critic, Ali Plumb and esteemed theatre critic Lyn Gardner.
Bowie was named most influential by judges as they commended his influence across the industry and ability to transcend a variety of mediums including music, film and fashion.
To celebrate David Bowie topping the list, Sky Arts commissioned Joe Black, a critically acclaimed mixed media artist from London, to create a unique artwork of the legendary musician using guitar plectrums. Each plectrum features a cut out shape to symbolise all the artistic disciplines Bowie influenced, from music and film to art, performance and poetry.
Britain's top 10 most influential artists of the last 50 years are:
David Bowie – prolific songwriter, performer and actor, known for songs including Heroes, Life on Mars and Space Oddity
Sir Steve McQueen CBE – award-winning film and TV director, producer, writer and artist whose work includes 12 Years a Slave and Small Axe in film and Year 3 in art
Russell T Davies OBE – TV screenwriter and producer, known for bringing Doctor Who to the masses and penning award-winning series It’s A Sin
Dame Vivienne Westwood – iconic fashion designer and pioneer of British punk culture since the 1970s
Caryl Churchill – leading playwright of over thirty plays including Top Girls, Cloud 9, and Far Away
Michael Clark – Scottish dancer and choreographer who commissions for major international dance companies
Angela Carter – feminist powerhouse, writer of The Bloody Chamber, Nights at the Circus and Wise Children
Stormzy – multi-award winning rapper and political activist, known for songs including Shut Up, Vossi Bop and Big For Your Boots
Muriel Spark – acclaimed novelist known for works including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori
Michaela Coel – multi-award winning actress, writer and director known for Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You
The artwork, standing at a mammoth 2m tall, has been made using 8,610 individually placed guitar plectrums. The final result is a stunning portrait of Bowie that will be donated by Sky Arts to a school in Bowie’s home town of Brixton, celebrating the new generation of young artists who will be inspired by the musical legend.
Joe is renowned for his portrait and abstract work, and combined his natural craft skills with a love of materials to pioneer an elaborate new form of pixilation.
Speaking about being involved in the campaign, Joe said:
“This portrait was created to celebrate David Bowie being named the most influential artist of the last 50 years. His visual representation had a huge impact across all of the arts worldwide. The idea was to use thousands of specially designed plectrums with each design representing one of the five artistic areas of Bowie’s creative life and influences - music, film, fashion, literature and art.
"Bowie was a maverick and a global icon who initiated a new Bowie era in popular culture.”
Coming in at second in the Top 10 list is Sir Steve McQueen CBE, known for both his Oscar-winning direction of 12 Years a Slave, as well as his renowned visual artistry which won him the prestigious Turner Prize in 1999.
The list continues with Russell T Davies OBE, who revived Doctor Who to worldwide acclaim in 2005, and later received a BAFTA nomination for his ground-breaking drama, It’s a Sin.
Fashion powerhouse, Dame Vivienne Westwood, comes third for being the epicentre of punk fashion since the 1970s, followed by writer Caryl Churchill who challenged the norm by bringing unconventional themes into contemporary theatre.
Beyond the top ten, a variety of acclaimed British artistic talent, past and present, feature in the Top 50 list. Included in the full list are Ricky Gervais, known for his controversial comedy, as well as Skin, lead vocalist of Skunk Anansie and Glastonbury’s first black British headliner in 1999.
‘Confessional’ visual artist Tracey Emin also appears, plus satirical actor and comic, Steve Coogan.
Many of the artists featuring in the Top 50 can be found in curated Sky Arts programming across the next month, be that Ridley Scott: The Directors on 18th August or The Banksy Job on 31st August, and many more.
The judging process was hard fought, with each judge supplying a selection of names that influenced the arts industry before coming together to discuss and score each artist to compile the shortlist of 50.
Speaking about leading the judging conversations to help determine the Top 50 list, Chair of Judges Lauren Laverne, said: “I was honoured to be chosen to take part in this judging day for Sky Arts, as working with such a respected group of judges I knew their conversations would be fascinating… and they were.
“The judges took so much time and care with their scoring to ensure the Top 50, Top 20 and Top 10 lists were truly the best of the best in terms of influence, and the final list are artists that are so deserving of their places.
“David Bowie coming in at number one was the cherry on top of a brilliant judging process, and it was great to be a part of it.”
Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, said: “Sky Arts would not exist without incredible British talent fuelling our schedules, so to celebrate we wanted to recognise the influence these artists have had on our culture. It’s a rich list headed up by David Bowie and we wanted to honour him in a way that would be fitting to the scale of his influence. The artwork created by Joe Black honours the way that Bowie’s influence transcends genres in a fittingly innovative and imaginative way.”
Notes to Editors
The full Sky Arts Top 50 list can be viewed below.
How the Top 50 list was composed:
Ahead of the judging day, each judge was asked to contribute a number of names of artists they felt were particularly influential to create a longlist of over 100 artists.
There were three rounds of judging against pre-determined criteria – round one to find the Top 50 artists (10 per category), round two to determine the Top 20 of those 50 artists (four per category), and the final round to rank and order this Top 20 to find the Top 10, and winner.
The judging criteria explored five key themes/questions:
Full list of judges:
Film & TV…
The Top 50 on Sky Arts:
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August 11, 2022 5:57am ET by SKY