It's got dung, blood and beheadings. It's got cows cut into pieces, blasphemies, mass murderers, dwarfs and tattooed ladies, and penises aplenty. "Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection" is sensational on purpose. Its artists know what works. They've rounded up the usual shocks.
The show, set to open at the Brooklyn Museum of Art on Oct. 2, promotes a tried-and-true aesthetic: It's never bad form to gross 'em out. That idea--which ought to be the show's motto--has long been accepted at with-it British art schools and at advertising agencies, one of which helped bring us this art.
Advertising executive Charles Saatchi of Saatchi & Saatchi owns it. One of his most famous ads shows a pregnant man in the London tube.
Most of the artists who produced these works are recent art school graduates. Like Damien Hirst, cutter-up of cows and leader of the pack, they are known for their skillful exploitation of the adman's bag of tricks. Big, posed color photographs, videotapes, instant-impact eye-grabbers and memorable slogans will be encountered often in the show. Hirst's cut-up cow is not titled "Cut-Up Cow." It's called "Some Comfort Gained From the Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in Everything."
Many of "Sensation's" knowing artists must have been delighted when told that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threatened Wednesday to de-fund the Brooklyn Museum for showing art so "sick."
Not all of it looks new, as anyone who has flipped through an art magazine in the past 10 years will recognize. Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary," with its elephant dung, and Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," with its crucifix submerged in urine, do not seem unrelated.
Can shocking art still shock? London took the same show in stride in 1997 when "Sensation" was shown to teeming crowds, without political interference, at the Royal Academy of Art.
The show will run at the Brooklyn Museum through Jan. 9.