Ed Young burst onto the scene in 2002 when his work Bruce Gordon, curated by Andrew Lamprecht, hit the media headlines. Bruce Gordon, Jo'burg bar owner and local art world personality, was auctioned at a fund-raising event held by Michaelis as [[Bruce Gordon (Found Object [concept])]]. He was bought by Suzy Bell for R52 000 and subsequently donated to the South African National Gallery. Of course, the concept of human-as-art coupled with the large amount of money exchanged was challenging and garnered a host of media attention. This work pretty much stands as the epitomé of Young's practice.
Ed Young can normally be found drinking at Jo'burg Bar in Cape Town till the early hours. One of his works from his undergraduate days at Michaelis can be seen on the wall. It comes from the time when Young worked in a studio and made art that could be hung on walls. Young may argue that a bar is a better place than a studio to entertain ideas of celebrity. Young has developed a persona as a marketing strategy, not in the corporate-financial-gain sense, but as a tool both to create art, and gain awareness for that art. It would be useful to note that even with all the media attention Young rarely sells work (with the notable exception of Bruce Gordon which was, strictly speaking, a donation).
Young's persona leads into his major themes of boredom, insolence and laziness, which he mixes with the forms of conceptualism, performance and minimalism. It's a contradictory, derisive, humorous cocktail and it is critical of and challenging to the South African art world. But, Young's works do more than just vacuous questioning. He works with the idea that the structure of the art world has superseded the art object itself. The art object is no longer necessary, and there is a far more interesting residue to play with. Young has teased out these ideas in a series of one-night exhibitions (where the only tangible objects were the catalogues written by theorist and sometime partner-in-crime Andrew Lamprecht), videos, performances and some sloppily-written one-liners printed on good paper. If we manage to get our heads around the fact that so little real work has attained for the artist such a wealth of media attention and international shows, while other artists google themselves every day in the hope of finding a mention, then maybe we can appreciate the seriousness of his project.