Born in 1958, Julian Opie is one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists. Although he graduated from Goldsmiths just before the YBA moment, his work has nonetheless become synonymous with the ‘Cool Britannia’ aesthetic of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Here we take a look at the life and times of the man behind the work.

Where did Julian Opie grow up?

Despite being born in London, Opie grew up in Oxford where he became fascinated with art and antiquities thanks to the collections of the Ashmolean museum. He soon found that he loved drawing and making art, seeing his practice as “a diary, a way of dealing with the world. Otherwise I feel you’re locked here, behind your eyes.” Opie’s father was an economist and his mother was a self taught artist. His parents held strong socialist opinions and his father would have liked him to go into politics but he fought to attend art school, completing a foundation year at Chelsea College of Art before going on to his undergraduate degree.

Julian by Julian Opie

Julian Opie’s Julian

Where did Julian Opie study?

In 1983 Julian Opie graduated from Goldsmiths where he studied under the conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin whose ideas have heavily influenced Opie’s own approach to art. Both are particularly preoccupied with representation, particularly the way in which images are perceived and understood. While at Goldsmiths he produced a series called Eat Dirt, Art History which involved copying famous artworks, acting as a comment on the “hopeless position of the art student in light of art history” as well as a “rallying call not to feel overwhelmed by it.”

That same year Opie had a show with Lisson Gallery, whom he is still represented by, and emerged onto the London art scene as a member of the New British Sculpture movement, which also included figures such as Tony Cragg and Anish Kapoor.


Julian Opie’s Walking in the Rain, Seoul

Where does Julian Opie live?

Now in his early 60s Opie still works from a studio in Shoreditch, East London, and, despite also owning a 14th century house in rural France, remains immersed in city life. This is particularly evident in many of his recent walking figures which evoke the archetypal urban lifestyle, whether it’s a frieze of commuters – heads down against the rain and the crowds – or a lone woman striding purposefully across a screen in the middle of London’s Carnaby Street.

What is Julian Opie’s net worth?

While it is difficult to estimate Opie’s net worth, it is safe to say that his artworks have always been in demand on the primary market – particularly in the early 2000s when the success of the album cover he designed for Blur propelled him to international fame. The last decade has also seen major public commissions of Opie’s work appearing on the streets of London, New York and Tokyo, which have added to his critical and commercial success as an artist. Accordingly, his work has been in steady demand on the secondary market for a while now with prices for his pieces at auction rising significantly in the last three years – in 2019 his sales totalled at around $2.4million.


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