By Peter Aspden
A new BBC series recalls the swagger and hubris of the Royal Academy’s infamous YBA exhibition.
We can’t say we weren’t warned. The organisers of 1997’s infamous survey of contemporary British art at the Royal Academy of Arts were even considerate enough — or was it commercially canny enough? — to post an ominous disclaimer at the entrance: “There will be works of art on display in the Sensation exhibition which some people may find distasteful,” it said. “Parents should exercise their judgment in bringing their children to the exhibition. One gallery will not be open to those under the age of 18.”
The exhibition more than lived up to the feeling of dread invoked both by that warning, and by the show’s bombastic title. Sensation delivered, big time. The works of art assembled in its august halls were at the same time admired and denounced, lauded for their audacity and lambasted for their pitiless intention to shock.
Sensationalists: The Bad Girls and Boys of British Art’, BBC Two at 9pm from September 27