The Revenge of the Real

But there are too many textbook examples of shock-your-grandmother art: Mat Collishaw's photograph of a Bullet Hole, the insipid, pseudo-chicken sculpture by Paul Finnegan, and those hackneyed works by the Chapmans. There are also tedious spin-offs. See Mark Wallinger's deadpan depictions of horses, Jane Simpson's refrigerated furniture, Hadrian Pigott's portable sink, and everything by Marc Quinn except his Self— five pints of his own refrigerated blood (the British love preserving things) in the shape of his head. The painting in "Sensation" is generally academic and at its worst when it's about painting (i.e., Fiona Rae, Richard Patterson, Jason Martin, Marcus Harvey, Mark Francis, and Simon Callery). Of the painters, Gary Hume's decorative, posterlike canvasses are pretty cool, but his one abstract work is clearer. Then there are the funny art-lists-about-art by Peter Davies (see him rank his 100 favorite artists: Hirst #28, Rae #54, Lucas #98); maybe Martin Maloney's kooky monstrosities; Glenn Brown's over-the-top photorealism; and Ofili's folk art–inspired pop phantoms.

Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) and Marcus Harvey's Myra (1995)
photo: Robin Holland
Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) and Marcus Harvey's Myra (1995)

Details

Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection
The Brooklyn Museum of Art
200 Eastern Parkway
Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Through January 9

Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman was seduced by the mentality of the blockbuster. He saw the sensation around "Sensation" and went for it; he dreamt of box office, not art. In February, the museum will present the Sonnabend Collection, and after that a Star Wars exhibition. (Note to the Observer: Sonnabend is Romanian and Jewish.) The space around contemporary art— not just this show— is now distorted, and will be for a while. People are looking for adrenaline or news, not art. A pox on all their houses. For our part, we didn't see this coming. The so-called shock tactics of British artists do give Americans something to think about. In all likelihood, the show itself will have little effect. One thing is certain: "Sensation" brought Rudy the Bear out of the woods and into our backyard. We now have a clean shot at him.

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