Joshua Richard Compston (1 June 1970 – 5 March 1996) was a London curator and progressive thinker, whose company Factual Nonsense was closely associated with the emergence of the Young British Artists (YBAs).
Compston was born in Putney. The son of a judge, he was educated at St Edward’s School, Oxford. Encouraged by his parents, Compston became an enthusiastic collector of antiques and ephemera. In his adolescence, he developed a friendship with Sir Peter Blake, and would bring him gifts of found ephemera.
Compston studied Art Foundation at Camberwell School of Art, followed by History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. At Camberwell, Compston was the contemporary of Darren Coffield, who later became his biographer.
At the Courtauld he soon became frustrated that the academic lecturing staff were taking insufficient interest in the work of living artists, and that as a result students were ignorant of major figures in 20th century art. Traditionally, students at the Courtauld had been taught in rooms hung with the masterworks from the history of art borrowed from the affiliated Courtauld Gallery. Taking advantage of a relocation of the school t new premises in Somerset House, and newly empty walls in seminar rooms, he leveraged the Courtauld into exhibiting the work of contemporary painters on long-term temporary loan as ‘The East Wing Collection’ – a practice which continues to this day as ‘The East Wing Biennial’. Past exhibitors in the Collection/Biennial include Mel Bochner, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Michael Landy, Del LaGrace Volcano, Gilbert and George), Genesis P-Orridge and Martha Rosler. He graduated from the Courtauld in 1992. At this time, he was associated with the American gallerist Maureen Paley.
Joshua Compston’s first forays into the world of commercial galleries began he became David Taborn’s agent, curating Taborn’s show at Gallery 202, Notting Hill Gate in 1989.