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If there was for a brief while a trend for curators to overshadow the artists in the holding of exhibitions that has now been replaced by the third partner in the trinity that makes up the business of the art world. The show Apocalypse, currently at the Royal Academy, from its very title through to the selection of tee shirts, badges and branded phone covers reveals the hand of that most dark, mistrusted department in any organisation, namely the marketing cabal. Within the artist-curator-marketing-triumvirate it is the marketer who has become the new figurehead leaving the curator as the Holy Ghost (always present but without their own form) and the artists playing Jesus (the most visible, but least potent of them all) reliant on marketing to make it all happen.
This isn't to say that Apocalypse isn't worth seeing. From Maurizio Cattelan's knocked down Pope, through the Dream Temple by Mariko Mori, passing by the Chapman brother's Hell to end at the Jeff Koons' room the show is full of original cutting edge work. What it isn't though is a coherent show based around a meaningful theme. It might as well have taken a meaningless truism such as 'Hell's different for everyone' as its introduction rather than an invocation of the book of Revelations by St John. Reading the blurbs and catalogue pieces undermine rather than reinforce the sense of a single shared theme.
There was a good bit on the press day watching as venerable Royal Academicians were shoved by an unscrupulous and (perhaps) overzealous usher into Gregor Schneider's Cellar, a small narrow series of rooms that opens the show. That they didn't need to enter through this claustrophobic exhibit wasn't made clear resulting in several panic attacks while we were in attendance. Maybe it was all deliberate attempt to echo the Nazis piling bodies into ovens in Jake and Dinos' Hell. As the official website says of Schneider's piece:
"The cellar stands as kind of death. Plucked from the flow of construction and remodelling, it is reified as an exhibit, embodying the death of work itself. It is the failure of work, a hiatus, until such time as there is a return home and a re-engagement."
It's easy to imagine a meeting in a darkened room of guys in bad suits and women with bad hair as the marketing team click through a PowerPoint analysis of Apocalypse. Some marketing scum bag taking the Royal Academy's rulers through the highs and lows of Brit Art, of what sells and what doesn't, a SWOT analysis (that's be strength-weaknesses-opportunities-threats in English) of the proposed show with a business plan attached as the final appendix. As a show it strikes this viewer as a cynical attempt to create a buzz of horror and revulsion amongst the Mail-Telegraph editors and their readers whilst seeking to exploit the interest created in that process.
For more information on times and dates visit the Royal Academy website.
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