Arts: The new establishment

Next month, the Royal Academy is showing Charles Saatchi's vast collection of work by young British artists. It's a key moment - the point at which the avant-garde becomes the mainstream. Here, a celebrated chronicler of the Saatchi generation explains its significance, while over the next five pages we profile its 20 leading lights

What makes young British art what it is? What are its hallmarks? Jokes, glamour, fun. Strangeness, oddness, weirdness. Not loveliness. Sexiness. Not aestheticism. Anti-aestheticism. Not art. Life. Not the studio. The world. And what a funny old contradictory, dysfunctional world it is! There's no Left or Right any more. There's only consumerism. There are no messages any more. Only ads. And there's no family. Only demented children on council estates telling their stories through the mouths of lip-synched adult weirdoes. (That's Gillian Wearing, in her film 10:16.) Or an artist's tent hand-embroidered with the names of everyone she's ever slept with, including family members. (Tracey Emin.) Or perfect mannequins of children wearing nothing but new Nikes, with adult sex organs erupting from their foreheads. (Jake and Dinos Chapman.) Or a mock-Expressionist painting of Myra Hindley. (Marcus Harvey, see also page five.) There's no authentic painting anymore. Only not-painting or anti-painting or ironic painting. And there's no avant-garde any more. The avant-garde is at the Royal Academy - and the Royal Academy by definition is the opposite of avant-garde.

Does that mean there's no culture any more? That would be horrible of course. But if the art is anti-art and the institutions are anti-institutions, or imploded institutions, what's left? That's certainly the main anxiety about the steady rise of the "YBAs" - the young British artists. Conservative art critics, culture-watching newspaper columnists, and the OBAs - the older British artists - can't understand what has happened. Was it aliens? Was it a virus? Was it art schools? Did they just stop teaching drawing and painting? And only teach post- structuralism and camcording instead? Can we have it all back like it was before? Or is it too late?

And is it all Charles Saatchi's fault? Shy and bullish at the same time, Saatchi is a contradiction too. His advertising agency in-vented Tony Blair's Demon Eyes and Labour Isn't Working and the Pregnant Man. And now he's got the contract for advertising the Millennium Dome. Originally an outsider, now it seems he's in charge of everything. Not only art and politics - or anti-art and anti-politics - but the future as well.

"Sensation" is the title of the exhibition of some of Saatchi's vast collection of YBA art, which opens next month at the Royal Academy. Saatchi didn't design the blueprint for YBA art, as many people think. The YBAs got that from art history itself. They looked at art history with a ruthless eye, saw what was there, chucked out what they thought was useless and kept the rest. A lot of the misconceptions about YBA art revolve around the chucked-out stuff. They chucked out a lot of the intellectual snobbery and hidden academicism of the Conceptual Art of the Sixties and Seventies, for example - as well as things from old-type "art" art, like the life class, still-life painting, and all artists being men. They tried to make art more real.

But it was Saatchi's gallery in St John's Wood and his collecting that made being a YBA a viable proposition. When he first opened the gallery in 1985, before anyone had even heard of Damien Hirst, it was already a sensation. It was full of huge, impressive for-eign art. Minimalism and Post-Minimalism and Neo-Conceptualism. It was like a model of the glamorous art scenes abroad, in Germany and New York especially. British art had just never been like that. Then when he stopped buying so much foreign art and started buying YBA art instead, it was YBA art that became glamorous in the eyes of the world.

YBA art is identified with youth culture. It's thought of as Britpop art, like Britpop music. Youth culture is about being dead real, but conforming with a commercialised idea of what it is to be real. A billboard advert showing a sexy slacker reads: "Be Good. Be Bad. Just Be." Calvin Klein sells its product by saying: We're not going to tell you what to be. In fact, they're telling you exactly what to be: a slacker wearing CK. But YBA art comes from art not from a corporation - it isn't selling anything. It may not be lovely or traditional but it does at least part of the job that art and culture are traditionally supposed to do. It's unsettling.

What was the impact of Damien Hirst's shark when it was first shown? Its atmosphere of threat. Its wrongness. It wasn't agitprop - that would be mad of course in the Nineties. But it wasn't a Calvin Klein ad either. Its message was that the world has changed: politics is over, ethics and morality too. Advertising, sport, a pretend lust for classic guitar sounds of the Sixties - we've got all that instead. So it's hard to tell where true badness really is these days. Except it feels like it's all around you.

Matthew Collings is the author of `Blimey!' (pounds 19.95, published by 21), a journey through the London art world from Francis Bacon to Damien Hirst. `Sensation' opens at the Royal Academy, W1 (0171 494 5615), on 18 September. The catalogue is published by Thames & Hudson (pounds 29.95).

DAMIEN HIRST

Born: Bristol, 1965; then grew up in Leeds.

Educated: famously, at Goldsmiths'. His tutor and mentor was Michael Craig-Martin. Hirst graduated in 1989.

What does he do? He pickles sharks, but has done far more than that.

Like what? He's the most celebrated artist of his generation and has helped many contemporaries make their reputations too.

First came to notice? In 1988, when he "conceived and curated" the exhibition "Freeze". Held in the empty Port of London Authority building, it ran in three parts and showed the work of 16 artists, most of whom had been taught by Craig-Martin. They included Mark Wallinger, Marcus Harvey, Gary Hume, Richard and Simon Patterson, Fiona Rae, Gavin Turk, Rachel Whiteread and Hirst himself (he was doing dot paintings and things in cardboard). Hirst promoted the show superbly, inviting the powers of Cork Street, the Tate and the Royal Academy.

When did Hirst hit the tabloids? I992, when his work first appeared at the Saatchi Gallery. Charles Saatchi bought his first Hirst, A Thousand Years - two adjoining vitrines containing a cow's head and thousands of flies and maggots - in 1990. By 1992, Hirst had produced The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark in formaldehyde (below), catch and construction funded by Charles Saatchi. It went on view in the first "Young British Artists" show and made Hirst's wider reputation.

More strange creatures: after flies, Hirst made art from butterflies, alive and dead: In and Out of Love. Animal-rights protesters turned up to the opening. In 1993, he made Mother and Child Divided, a cow and calf which were dissected and displayed in parallel tanks. It cost pounds 65,000 to assemble; the asking price was pounds 140,000.

More headlines: came in 1994 when Away from the Flock (a sheep in formaldehyde) went on view at the Serpentine. It drew 48,000 visitors, one of whom poured ink into the tank, renaming it Black Sheep. Hirst gave evidence at the man's trial. Then he won the Turner Prize in 1995.

Mates: the "Court of King Damien" includes Jay Jopling, Hirst's dealer, Sam Taylor-Wood, Marc Quinn, Marco Pierre White, with whom Hirst re- opened the Soho restaurant Quo Vadis, actor Keith Allen, Blur (Hirst made the video for "Country House"), Jarvis Cocker (he's just done a film for Pulp) and David Bowie. He doesn't actually live at the Groucho club, but in Devon with his girlfriend Maia and their son Connor.

What's he up to now? He had a show at New York's Gagosian Gallery last year, which featured a multi-cross-sected cow divided in 10 tanks, huge ashtray sculptures and circular, spinning paintings. He's got a book out: I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Every-where, With Every-one, One to One, Always, Forever, Now (pounds 59.95). He's decorating a Notting Hill restaurant and is going to edit an issue of the Big Issue.

MARCUS HARVEY

Born: Leeds, 1963.

Educated: Goldsmiths'; was just ahead of the pack, graduating in 1986.

First came to notice: in "Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away" at the Serpentine in 1994, and in "YBA III" at the Saatchi in 1995.

Gallery: White Cube.

What does he do? Abstract paintings superimposed with soft-porn drawings derived from girlie magazines, such as Dudley, Like What You See? Then Call Me (1996, below). His work has been both condemned - for being deliberately provocative - and revered - for its unrepentantly in-yer- face attitude.

Isn't he the one who's done the picture of Myra Hindley? Yes, he has made a vast (11'x9') portrait of her, recreating, in paint, the photograph taken of her at the time of the Moors murders (see page five). The way Harvey applied the paint makes the picture look like a collage of children's hand-prints. The painting, and the announcement that the Academy would show it in "Sensation", sparked a huge controversy.

Who objected to it? Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett, one of the child victims of Hindley and Ian Brady. She was "disgusted" by the depiction of an "evil" person. The children's charity Kidscape said it would boycott the exhibition if Myra appears in it. "How sad that an artist has to resort to sick exploitation of dead children to get noticed," said Kidscape's Michele Elliot. Hindley herself echoed Johnson's view, saying the painting was "totally abhorrent".

How Marcus Harvey defends the picture: "The image has a kind of hideous attraction."

What Jay Jopling says: "I think it is very important for people to realise that this painting is a representation of an image that has been given almost iconic status by years of obsessive media coverage."

What the Academy said: "The Royal Academy shares the universal public revulsion at and abhorrences for the crimes committed by Myra Hindley and Ian Brady ... It is the aim of the RA to present the art of all ages and cultures to the widest possible audience and it is appropriate that the RA should mount an exhibition of the work of younger British artists who are now winning international recognition. This is, however, a difficult work and the RA is sensitive to the views and wishes of the families of the victims of Hindley and will be taking these into account before reaching a final decision."

So what's going to happen now? It is still not clear: the Academy has yet to decide whether or not to show Myra. Should "Sensation" be censored in order to satisfy public opinion, or should art be above that? Is art's role to tackle sensi- tive moral questions? Whatever the Academy decides, the leader writers will have had a field day - and "Sensation" will have had quite a lot of advance publicity. (Maybe the show should have been called "Sensationalism".)

GAVIN TURK

Born: Guildford, 1967.

Educated: Chelsea, then did an MA at the Royal College of Art. He left in 1991.

Left? Didn't he graduate? Not technically. For his MA show, he exhibited his studio. It was empty but for a blue plaque on one wall, which read "Borough of Kensington, Gavin Turk sculptor worked here 1989-91". He called the whole piece Cave. The RCA refused Turk his degree - and unwittingly launched his career as the bad boy of art. Turk's point was if the English only like artists after their death, and if it doesn't really matter whether they were talented when they were alive, then the best strategy for beginning a career is to die at its conception.

What does he do? He recycles landmark works of Modernism and Post-Modernism. For the Saatchi's "YBA III" in 1995, he made Pop (right), a life-sized waxwork of himself as Sid Vicious. Taking its pose from Warhol`s portrait of Elvis with the gun, the sculpture resonated with memories of two celebrity deaths. His work is both self-referential and art-referential. In his video, A Marvellous Force of Nature (pounds 850), he had him- self levitated by a magician. In "A Fete Worse Than Death", organised by the late Joshua Compston in Hoxton Square, he performed on stage dressed as a monster. He mimed to David Bowie's "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)", and "excreted" a string of sausages. He wanted to recycle TS Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men", but Faber & Faber wouldn't allow it.

What the critics think: "[Turk is a] sort of Wizard of Oz figure substituting self-aggrandisement for substance, peeling away the layers of bluff and hype that go into the creation of the modern celebrity" - Richard Dorment, Daily Telegraph (1995). "He's one of the young British artists who is making young British art a bit like young British rock music" - Matthew Collings.

What Gavin Turk says: "The way I behave will be parodying something I'm doing in my artwork. To balance not only my art but in theory art generally."

Represented by: Jay Jopling at White Cube.

Charles Saatchi's piece of the action: Saatchi owns lots of Turk, including Gavin Turk: Right Hand and Forearm, a silk-screened photograph of the artist's hand apparently pickled in a jar, and a mock Hello! cover on which "Gavin Turk the artist relaxes at home after the birth of his child".

RACHEL WHITEREAD

Born: London, 1963. Father a teacher; mother an artist.

Educated: Brighton Polytechnic (Painting, 1982-85); Slade School of Fine Art (Sculpture,1985-87).

What she does: sculpture. She takes casts of voids - the interior of a house, the underneath of a chair - in plaster, concrete and resin. The results solidify space.

First came to notice: in the late Eighties, though she didn't appear in "Freeze" or "Modern Medicine". She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1991 and Ghost, a cast of the inside of a room, was shown in the first "YBA" show at the Saatchi in 1992 (below).

Best-known work: House, which made her a household name in 1993. She (and a team of construction workers) poured concrete into an East-End house that was destined for demolition. They then chipped off the walls, revealing the space inside - as a solid. Despite winning the Turner Prize, House was bulldozed by the local council in 1994. It had stood for just 10 weeks, but was visited by 100,000 people. Whiteread "won" pounds 40,000 from the K Foundation "for the worst art"; she passed it on to struggling artists.

What the critics say: Francis Bacon challenged her to "deepen her game". Would he think she has, by now?

What she says: "I make ambitious projects and controversy comes along with it, and that's that really."

What she's done since House: her work appears around the world. Last year, she had an acclaimed retrospective at the Tate Liverpool. She became the first woman chosen by the British Council solely to represent Britain at the "Venice Biennale" earlier this summer. She's starting to pick up honorary degrees. But she turned down the invitation to become a Royal Academician.

Dealer: was Karsten Schubert; then she left him for Anthony d'Offay. Schubert threatened to close his gallery. But he remains a player, with four of his stable appearing in "Sensation".

What she costs: Untitled (Double Amber Bed) sold for over pounds 100,000 (four times the estimate) at Sotheby's earlier this year. It was bought by d'Offay.

Mates: she's singular, not really one of the gang. Her association in the public mind with Hirst et al is more to do with being in the same shows than dining at Quo Vadis. Lives with Marcus Taylor (also a "Sensation" sculptor).

Next move: should have been a Holocaust memorial in Judenplatz, Vienna. Nameless Library, a cast of bookshelves measuring 266 square metres, won the competition, but may now not happen. Some Austrian politicians don't want a Holocaust memorial, some don't want one by a non-Jewish artist, some want it moved from the old Jewish ghetto, and others argue that a commemoration of bookish culture would ignore less-educated victims of Nazism. "It is all of these things," says Whiteread, who is "very angry".

GILLIAN WEARING

Born: Birmingham, 1963.

Educated: BTech at Chelsea School of Art (1985-87); BA at Goldsmiths' (1987-90).

First came to notice: "New Contemporaries", 1992. Wearing photographed people on the street holding a sheet of paper on which they wrote what they were thinking. The piece was called Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants them to say.

What does she do now? Videos, mainly about adolescent angst. For 10:16, she taped adolescents speaking about whatever they wanted. Their stories were then "told" by adult actors in staged scenarios (below) - literally putting young words in old mouths, to suggest that adult stoicism is undermined by the seething emotions felt in childhood. Other videos feature clothed people masturbating, masked people confessing and Wearing dancing in a shopping precinct. Confessions helped her to a nomination for this year's Turner Prize. To find confessors she put ads in Time Out.

Who confessed? "I do feel anxious about my mother and I'd love to kill her very much," said a naked dwarf lying in a bath.

Why did she use a dwarf? Wearing maintains the boy's confession of his hatred for his mother's lesbian lover was so strange it had to be recounted in a surreal manner. Wearing's dwarf was a professional actor who had been in Disney movies, which seems rather fitting.

What a critic said: "Only the last confessor in the film seemed really disturbed and should possibly have been in hospital" - Matthew Collings, Guardian.

What she says: [accused of being merely a sophisticated Jeremy Beadle] "The direction I've come from is 1970s fly-on-the-wall documentaries ... there was a lot more naivity then." Not that her requests are always innocent: "I've been going up to women in flowered dresses, and asking them for their rendition of 'I'd like to teach the world to sing' ... they all look like the Stepford Wives."

Dealer: Maureen Paley, who runs Interim Art in Hackney.

What next? The Turner Prize - she's up against Angela Bulloch, Cornelia Parker and Christine Borland. And her work will be shown in Sydney in October, in "Picture Britannica: Art from Britain".

JENNY SAVILLE

Born: Cambridge, 1970.

Educated: Glasgow School of Art.

What she does: Fat is a Feminist Issue - the painting. Saville famously paints the female nude in its fullest dimensions: flesh drips and seeps all over the canvas. Her pictures could be grotesque, they're certainly Lucian Freudian (though his women are more often scrawny), yet they're extremely popular.

How does she do her research? Her work became more political after she spent a year as an exchange student in Cincinatti, on a programme sponsored by the art patrons Susan Kasen and Robert Summer, where she joined women's studies groups and sat in on plastic-surgery operations. In her subsequent paintings, Saville depicted bodies as if they had been prepared for the scalpel.

Hard graft: Saville didn't get a state grant and had to pay her own way at Glasgow. At one stage, she was rising at 6.30am to work in a stockbroker's office, heading on to art school later in the day.

First came to notice: in 1992 - one of her paintings was featured on the cover of the Times's Saturday magazine. Charles Saatchi saw it, and then bought her first show in its entirety. He commissioned another year's worth of work from her, and the resulting 11 pictures appeared in YBA III", in January 1994. They aroused almost as much interest as Hirst's shark had done back in 1992.

Best-known work: Plan, a full-frontal, full-length (longer, in fact, it measures 9'x7') portrait of a woman whose flesh has been plotted with routes for the surgeon's knife (below). It won the Lord Provost's Art Prize at Glasgow in 1995, and will be seen again in "Sensation".

What the critics say: "Saville creates disobedient images that deliberately make you question your view of women. They are aggressively confrontational and almost dare the spectator not to enter into the debate regarding conventional stereotypes" - Dr Linda Mead of Birkbeck College, London.

What she says: "The history of art has been dominated by men, living in ivory towers, seeing women as sexual objects ... I try to catch their identity, their skin, their hair, their heat, their leakiness."

And: "I'm painting these kinds of figures because I think it's important to challenge trad- itional representations of the female nude. The fleshiness of women's bodies is something that is never put on display in the 20th century - it's always airbrushed or suppressed. I'm trying to do it with a certain sympathy and emotion, and also put it in the context of feminist thought."

What she costs: Plan sold for pounds 12,000.

Represented by: herself - she chooses not to have a dealer.

Young Scottish artist: she moved to London from Glasgow after finishing at art school, and she now lives with her partner, Paul McPhail. But she's Scottish by descent.

SARAH LUCAS

Born: London, 1962.

Educated: Working Men's College, London (1982-83); London College of Printmaking (1983-84); Goldmiths' (BA, 1984-87).

What she does: installations and sculptures - of incongruous things - and videos. Subjects are taken from working-class culture: blokes, birds, sport, telly, food, fags. Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab (1992, below) is literally that - and symbolically a nude. Fig Leaf in the Ointment involves wax casts of her armpits. In 1993, she and Tracey Emin opened "The Shop" on Bethnal Green Road; the two artists sold art bric-a-brac and would greet customers wearing T-Shirts bearing the legends "I'm so fucky" and "Have you wanked over me yet?" According to Matthew Collings, "They lived on Guinn-ess and curries, and then finally put a sign up that said `Shop Closed, Gone to Mexico'." The Great Flood is currently at the ICA. It's a loo signed in gold pen.

First came to notice: in "Freeze", in 1988. She appeared in "YBA II" at the Saatchi in 1993.

What she says: "I use sexist attitudes because they are there to be used."

What Damien Hirst says: "There's always that bit missing in Sarah's work. There's no way out, no way in, but you're in."

What the critics say: "Lucas's pictures are, on a technical level, dull reprises of Andy Warhol," said Andrew Graham-Dixon, reviewing "YBA II" in the Independent. But Waldemar Januszczak is a huge fan: "In this year of Hogarth, she deserves a confident nomination for the Turner prize for her wit, her invention, and her spectactular urban Britishness," he wrote in the Sunday Times in May. "Like Hogarth, who chided the London poor for their alcoholism in Gin Street, but seemed also to forgive and understand them, she never gives the impression of loathing her subjects as they deserve, perhaps, to be loathed." Lucas didn't get nominated this year.

Dealer: Lucas turned down an exclusive contract with Jay Jopling. "I'm not that interested in being part of some establishment or other." Has had shows at Anthony d'Offay, Karsten Schubert and White Cube. Now with Sadie Coles, who set up on her own earlier this year - "To run your own gallery, you have to have a real desire to show certain people. The key person for me was Sarah Lucas." Coles showed Lucas's Bunny Gets Snookered - a snooker table with a mannequin, legs splayed, at each corner - this year, and together they installed The Law in a Clerkenwell loft. Its centrepiece was a Ford Capri humping up and down on hydraulic pumps, as if someone was making love inside it.

What she costs: pounds 5,000 to pounds 20,000.

Mates: core member of the original Goldsmiths' gang. Lived with Gary Hume and Grenville Davey. Her boyfriend is Angus Fairhurst, who was also at Goldsmiths' and organised the show that was the precursor of "Freeze".

Next move: her work will be shown on Hydra in Greece next month. She has a cameo role in Love is the Devil, a new film about Francis Bacon.

FIONA RAE

Born: Hong Kong, 1963.

Educated: Croydon College of Art (1983-84); Goldsmiths' (BA 1984-87.

Represented by: Waddington's.

Early sightings: her work appeared in "Freeze" in 1988. Then she was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1991.

And recently? She and Gary Hume shared this year's "YBA". Charles Saatchi holds enough of their work, like Rae's Untitled (Sky Shout) (below), to have made the show a mini-retrospective.

What does she do? Abstract paintings characterised by frenzied clashes of colour and shape. She uses flat circles as a foundation, then floats white circles above them to create a pictorial space between the two planes which is defined by dribbles, meanderings and splatters. The centrifugal force of arcs swings the viewer's gaze rhythmically across the canvas, but never allows it properly to focus. The catalogue for the Saatchi called Rae's work the visual equivalent of twiddling the dial on the radio, picking up snatches of this conversation or that piece of music, but never settling to one channel. She describes the effect as "having an argument in the painting".

What else does she say? "The appeal of painting is that there is no solution ... it's a process with no possibility of arrival." And: "If everything's up for grabs everytime you want to begin a painting, it's like having to redefine your language every time you open your mouth." And: "I don't think my paintings are `universal' or `pure', they're kinda phoney abstract."

What a critic said: "As oddly coordinated, as nervy, smeary, patchy and raucous as I've seen her." - Adrian Searle on her 1995 show at Karsten Schubert.

What next? A solo show at Luhring Augustine in New York.

SIMON PATTERSON

Born: Leatherhead, Surrey, 1967; he's the younger brother of Richard Patterson (see right). They work separately.

Educated: Goldsmiths' (BA, 1986-89). He arrived there just as Richard left. They were both in the "Freeze" shows.

Represented by: Lisson Gallery.

What does he do? Conceptual and installation work. He's most feted for his word-association pieces. At first he simply paired words in generic type, printed and mounted: Richard Burton Elizabeth Taylor (1987) was typical. Patterson explained (or didn't): "You want to do something where people almost say, 'Is that all there is?' Your work is on the edge of not being art."

Best-known for: The Great Bear (below), his version of the London Underground map. It was first shown as part of the Hayward's "Double-Take" exhibition in 1992, and then entered into the Turner Prize in 1996 (Douglas Gordon won). Patterson kept the map, but renamed all the stations. Each stop on the Circle line is a philosopher, for example. Other celebrities (including famous historical figures from Aristotle to George Best) dot the map - not quite at random, but not with much discernible logic either.

What else has he done? He made a mural of a planetary chart and a floor piece of three windsurfing sails, both on the same word-association theme. In 1994, he exhibited a piece at the Chisenhale Gallery entitled General Assembly, which consisted of a giant typewriter keyboard with blue and white keys, the colours of the UN Protection force. The keys were then given labels: "China", "Russia" and "Boutros Boutros", for example. The political satire in the piece was reinforced by references to Swift's Brobdingnag and Lilliput.

What he says: not too much. "It's not the job of artists to answer questions. To be didactic would close down the work. I don't want to lose possible meanings. There are different types of taxonomy. This is my choice but everyone can write their own version. The idea of bringing more objects into the world is a strange thing." But he's capable of self-mockery: "I'll spend hours on something and then realise: `I've just stepped on that.' Completely Frank Spencer."

What one critic makes of him: Brian Sewell, of the London Evening Standard, reading a press release about Patterson's fascination with "the information systems which order our lives", retorted: "So too are computer buffs and secret police forces, and they are not eligible for the Turner Prize."

JAKE AND DINOS CHAPMAN

Born: Dinos in London in 1962; Jake in Cheltenham in 1966.

Educated: for their first degrees, Dinos went to Ravensbourne and Jake to North London Poly. Then they both went to the Royal College of Art, and got their MAs there in the late 1980s.

Further education: they became assistants to Gilbert and George.

What they do: British art's answer to the Gallaghers, the Chapman brothers are famous for endowing bland child mannequins with genitalia, explo- ding from the wrong places, sometimes bloodily. In Mummy and Daddy Chapman, Mummy sprouts a crop of vaginas and penises, and Daddy is covered in a rash of sphincters. An Italian dealer banned the work, provoking a pornographic attack by the brothers that attracted the attention of the vice squad. They made a porno film featuring the severed head of the Italian dealer which was used as a sex toy.

First came to notice: in 1993, when they first exhibited together. They showed a meticulous re-working of Goya's etchings The Disasters of War - a table-top covered in tiny plastic soldiers engaged in torture, murder and rape.

And more recently: they had a show at the ICA last year. "Chapmanworld" was a grand celebration of perversity and freak-show indulgence. Sexually mutated shop-window dummies struck the strangest poses in a kind of seditious Garden of Eden. There were pieces like Great Deeds Against the Dead (right), and the show's climax was a model of a wounded man hanging from the ceiling, with blood dripping from his gashes into a bucket. He was based on a photograph of a prisoner dying the "death of a thousand cuts" in the last days of Imperial China.

Other infamous works: particularly memorable are the infant with the sex-doll mouth entitled Fuck-face; and, perhaps most notorious, the sculpture of Stephen Hawking, in a wheelchair, perched on top of a mountain, "staring off into the teleological distance", as Jake puts it.

Why Hawking? Jake: "He represents the cybernetic ideal. His body has become a brain."

What the critics say: "Toshiba and the ICA should seriously review their support of this kind of show, where images of paedophilia, sexual fetishism, and violence are gratuitously loosened upon the world" - John McEwen, Sunday Telegraph. "The Chapman brothers are right-wing in thought and word as well as deed," wrote Julie Burchill, referring to the "fascism" of the Chapmans.

What Jake said back: "The masses are so uneducated. Galleries should be means-tested." And: "The thing that makes life worth living is surplus wealth."

What else does Jake say: "I want to rub salt in your inferiority complex, smash your ego in the face, gouge your eyes from their sockets and piss in the holes".

What the Chapmans' work costs: pounds 16,000 to pounds 40,000.

And where can you buy it? The Victoria Miro Gallery. Also, from September, from the Royal Academy's show. The Chapmans are producing a limited edition of signed Stephen Hawking phonecards as their contribution to the "Sensation" merchandise.

Next move: they're having a show at the Victoria Miro Gallery in September, and an exhibition in New York. Their plan is to convert the Gagosian Gallery into a "mass graveyard littered with skulls and overlooked by zygotic sculptural figures".

How will Americans take to them? Probably better than you think. Sylvester Stallone, for one, is a big Jake and Dinos fan.

CHRIS OFILI

Born: Manchester, 1968.

Educated: Chelsea School of Art; then did an MA at the Royal College, finishing in 1993.

Dealer: Victoria Miro Gallery.

First came to notice: as the winner of 1989's "Whitworth Young Contemporaries".

More recently: a solo show in New York in 1995, and a much-talked-about appearance in "About Vision" at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford last year. The show, subtitled "New British Painting in the 1990s", was sponsored by Absolut Vodka. Among other things Ofili contributed a painting of a bottle of the aforementioned vodka.

What else does he do? Psychedelic paintings, often of pop icons of the Seventies. To their "whirling, jewel-like and shamelessly ornamental surfaces", he adds lumps of elephant dung. So the Absolut painting consists of oil paint, glitter - and the doings of an elephant. Popcorn Tits (1996, right) has dung feet.

What does it mean? It's Ofili's way of grounding his paintings physically in a cultural as well as a natural landscape. He also wants to challenge Western assumptions about ethnicity.

So are his Nigerian roots instrumental in the development of his style? "I'm sure it's all in there somewhere, but so is Manchester. I did go on an art scholarship to Zim- babwe and found I was pretty affected."

But of all the things in Africa, why bring dung back home? "I dunno. I had a lot pointed out to me in Zimbabwe and somehow found it inspiring."

What else does he do with it? Soon after his return from Zimbabwe, in 1993, he held two Shit Sales, one in Berlin, the other in Brick Lane. In last year's "British Art Show 4", Ofili presented a brown-paper shopping bag full of the stuff. He called it A Bag of Shit.

That sounds a bit literal. Well, he sees art as essentially visual: "If you go into the National Gallery the first thing you do is look. Who starts by asking what the conceptual basis of the Wilton Dyptych is?"

What one critic said: "I have yet to hear a convincing explanation as to why he paints with dung when Windsor & Newton have spent generations making perfectly good paint" - Richard Ingleby, Independent.

TRACEY EMIN

Born: London, 1963; grew up in Margate.

Educated: left school at 13; her childhood is documented on video tapes. Later went to Maidstone Art School, followed by the Royal College of Art (1987-89), where one of her tutors was Professor Norbert Lynton.

Big break: in the "Minky Manky" show in 1995, when she exhibited alongside Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst, Mat Collishaw and Gary Hume.

What did she show? A tent. The show was curated by the art journalist Carl Freedman, with whom she was involved. Most of the other artists were more established than Emin, so, according to her version of events, Freedman told her: "If I'm going to put you in the show, and I'm having a relationship with you, you'd better make a good piece of work. You've got to make something totally outstanding to justify your situation in that show."

What was her response? Everyone I've Ever Slept With, a tent inside which she sewed the names of everyone she'd ever, etc. Carl Freedman's name was on the flap.

Who else got stitched? Quite a few people. One complained. Her response was: "You shouldn't have fucked me." He said, "I didn't know you were going to be a famous artist and make a tent." Professor Lynton was excused: "I'm not on her tent," though, "I did a quick mental check when I first heard about it." He finds Emin's current work "self-indulgent and egocentric".

What else has she done? In 1993, she set up The Shop on Bethnal Green Road, with Sarah Lucas. They had met in 1992 at Lucas's "Penis on a Board" show at City Racing. Emin promoted her first solo show, at White Cube in 1994, as "My Major Retrospective". Then she opened the Tracey Emin Museum in Waterloo (1995). Earlier this year, she had a big solo show - "I Need Art Like I Need God" - at the South London Gallery.

Life's work: her artistic project is to document the raw and unedited story of her life, using whatever material comes to hand.

What else does she want us to know? That she pushed an Orangina bottle all the way up inside herself and fell asleep that way. That when she was eight she "killed" a school dinner-lady by throwing a medicine ball at her, causing a brain haemorrhage ("Yeah, I was happy about that"). That sort of thing.

Will her art last? Carl Freedman: "Much of her work is insubstantial, fleeting ... its non-monumental nature means galleries may be reluctant to buy it." Lynton has "a horrible feeling that it will all disappear".

Dealer: Jay Jopling at White Cube.

Mates: to celebrate her 34th birthday, she held a karaoke party in a London pub. Those passing the microphone that night included Gary Hume, Gillian Wearing and Jarvis Cocker.

RICHARD PATTERSON

Born: Leatherhead, 1963.

Educated: Goldsmiths' (BA, 1983-86).

Dealer: Anthony d'Offay.

First came to notice: in "Freeze" in 1988, though his work wasn't in the catalogue.

What does he do? He paints. He started off doing abstracts, but in the years after "Freeze" he went through a period of disenchantment and threw out a lot of his early work. He made a convincing comeback in 1995 with a solo show of glamorous, compelling, figurative paintings at Anthony d'Offay.

What's his best-known work? Probably Motorcrosser II (1995, below). The painting happened as a result of Patterson's friend Fiona Rae buying him a model of a motorbike in a toyshop - she knew that he had had a motorbike fixation since childhood. The picture began as a sculpture: Patterson painted onto the motorbike, then he photographed it, scaled it up, and painted from the image. Though it grew from a toy, Motorcrosser II has an ominous, predatory feel. It's kitsch, but has authority. Motorcrosser II appeared in two group shows last year, "About Vision" at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, and "ACE!" at the Hayward Gallery.

What the critics said: "Motorcrosser II is a wonder of laddishness, and what a technique he has developed to paint about his enthusiasm," wrote Tim Hilton in the IoS. Richard Cork, in the Times, liked Patterson's "ability to invest banal, even kitsch material, with a surprising power".

What else has he painted? Himself. He contributed a self-portrait to d'Offay's "Portrait of the Artist" exhibition last year, which Tim Hilton found "splendidly amusing". He hailed Patterson as "the brightest newcomer of 1996", for work that was "zany and insolent". A new painting, Culture Station With Fur Hat, will be unveiled in "Sensation".

Any relation to Simon Patterson? Yes, they're brothers, but unlike the Chapmans they do their own thing. Richard is the elder, but since "Freeze" he has taken longer to come to notice.

What next? Another solo show at Anthony d'Offay opens on 12 September, and his work will be in "False Impressions" at the British School in Rome.

MICHAEL LANDY

Born: 1963.

Educated: Goldsmiths', graduated in 1988.

Dealer: Karsten Schubert.

What does he do? Installations. What are they about? Landy's interested in the relationship between art and the circulation of commodities, so his installations use objects found in markets, stalls, anywhere. He is seen to fit into the tradition of social and political satire that stretches back to Hogarth and Swift.

When did he first come to notice? With the massive Market (below), which appeared in the warehouse show at Building One in Drummond Street, SE16, in 1990. Landy set up a street market, consisting of nearly a hundred elements: there were market stalls, greengrocers' shelves, stacks of trays and crates, and fake grass. No produce was for sale, just the display itself - was it a thinly disguised attack on the art market?

What did he do next? In 1992 he exhibited Closing Down Sale at the Karsten Schubert Gallery. The show resembled a tacky jumble sale, complete with signs proclaiming "Everything must go", a comment on post-Thatcherite consumerism, and perhaps also on the urgent need of an artist to receive recognition. Last year Landy put on Scrapheap Services, first in the decaying interior of the Electric Press building in Leeds, then at the Chisenhale Gallery in London. Uniformed mannequins cleaned up hundreds of thousands of little people cut out from rubbish, tin cans and old newspapers. The figures were scattered all over the floor, piled into bins and a shredder. An accompanying video announced that Scrapheap Services is "the cleaning company that cares because you don't", while the soundtrack asked: "Why put up with unsightly people who are such a burden on your resources when you can turn to Scrapheap Services's people-control range of products?" Some critics interpreted the work as a reference to the Holocaust; at the least it seemed to be a chilling satire on corporate employment practices.

What else does he do? Pen and ink cartoons that emulate the satirical technique of Hogarth. They have titles like, We Love the Jobs You Hate and Bin it for Britain, and are executed in minute and fanatical detail.

What the critics said: writing in the Independent, Iain Gale, called him a "loveable art-anarchist". Richard Dorment of the Daily Telegraph wasn't so enamoured: "Just as I am irritated by bumper stickers that say, 'Warning - I brake for small animals', there's something smug and self- congratulatory about Scrapheap".

NB: in June 1996 his garbage-can installation was thrown out by the night cleaners at the Karsten Schubert Gallery.

SAM TAYLOR-WOOD

Born: London, 1967.

Educated: Goldsmiths'; graduated in 1990.

What does she do? Panoramic photographs and videos, documenting her sort of London life.

First came to notice: in 1994 with Killing Time, a four-part screen with two men and two women miming to a German opera (below). In 1995, she was in the "British Art Show" with Brontosaurus, a video of a naked man dancing alone in his living-room; he'd obviously done the dancing to some jungle techno track, but Taylor-Wood played him back in slow motion, to orchestral music, so that his manic jerks took on a kind of melancholy. She also transposed Tosca to a council flat with her friends miming the arias. Last year she showed a five-screen work called Pent Up at the Chisenhale. And Slut attracted attention: it's a self-portrait in which the artist's neck is ringed with love-bites.

And this year? She won a young artist's award at the Venice Biennale. Her Five Revolutionary Seconds, a series of photos taken by a rotating camera through 360 degrees that captured actors engaged in activities ranging from the banal to the pornographic, has been shown in Barcelona. She's had a commission from the Telegraph to take a panorama of London. And she has permeated the consciousness of mainstream pop: Taylor-Wood made the video that was projected either side of the stage as the Pet Shop Boys played the Savoy Theatre in June. Also last year she did a film called The Last Castrato with Kylie Minogue, shown at the ICA in "Fool's Rain".

What she says: "My own work comes from pulling out bits of people's personalities, mostly people who are very close to me. But Kylie came to me with the idea of making a piece with an artist. We're both exploiting each other. Kylie is famous for two things - what she looks like and her voice. I wanted to alter one and keep the other, so she's lip-synching with the voice of a castrato ... The BBC actually commissioned the film. That shows that art is crossing over into a different world." (Telegraph, 1996.)

Dealer: Jay Jopling. He's also her boyfriend. And now they're getting married.

What does she cost? Jopling charges pounds 5,000 for framed prints in an edition of three.

Mates: Jopling, obviously. He appeared in the Pet Shop Boys video, with several others of the Britpop art set. They sat around on sofas, drinking, smoking, talking and dancing a bit, looking a lot more glamorous than the punters in the stalls. When Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe wanted a break from performing, they could leave the set via a door and join their friends on video. Other mates include photographer Johnnie Shand Kydd and artist Cerith Wyn Evans.

Coming up in: "Picture Britannica" in Sydney; "Package Holiday" on the island of Hydra; plus solo shows in LA and Zurich.

GARY HUME

Born: Kent, 1962.

Educated: Liverpool Poly; then Goldsmiths', graduated in 1988.

Early sightings: he was in "Freeze, Part II".

More recently: was a Turner Prize contender in 1996; and he shared this year's "YBA" at the Saatchi with Fiona Rae.

What does he do? Painting and film. First he painted institutional doors - and did so for about six years. He started with a pair of "elegant modernist" doors from Bart's Hospital. He measured them precisely and began a series. The doors were life-size, monochromatic, glossy and heavy with paint that was built up layer upon layer. They parodied minimal art. Doors made Hume's name - Charles Saatchi bought some - but by 1993 he was bored of them. Next he made a short film called Me As King Cnut, in which he sat in an outside bath, fully clothed, and knocked his own reputation. Then he started painting other things - athletes, flowers, a teddy bear. Begging For It (below) depicts a praying figure silhouetted in blue with black- gloved arms. Also paints pictures inspired by magazine images of celebrities, such as Patsy Kensit (1994).

What the critics say: "Hume has grown into one of the most adroit, inspiriting and resourceful painters around" - Richard Cork, Times (1995). "He's the top painter of the Young British Artists" - Matthew Collings, Blimey! (1997)

What he says: "All you get from me is surface." But also: "I have melancholy in my paintings because I have it in myself."

Dealer: Karsten Schubert dropped Hume when he gave up doing doors. Now with Jay Jopling.

What does he look like? See above - though he'd rather you didn't. He's the only artist who refused to provide a mug-shot of himself for Saatchi's Young British Artists catalogue.

What next? He's up for the Jerwood prize this autumn.

MARK WALLINGER

Born: Chigwell, Essex, 1959.

Educated: Chelsea School of Art (1978-81); Goldsmiths' (MA, 1983-85).

First came to notice: in the "New Contemporaries" show at the ICA in 1981; appeared in "YBA II" in 1993. In 1995 he had a show at the Serpentine and was a Turner Prize nominee (Damien Hirst won).

What he does: photography, sculpture, installation - but most famously he paints horses. Racing has been his passion since childhood. Race, Class, Sex (1992; below) is a quartet of equine portraits - four racehorses owned by Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai.

So why's it called that then? Because the horses are stallions, who are hired out for sex, covering up to three mares a day, at a price of pounds 30,000 a go. And Wallinger sees racing - from the toffs who own the horses, to the jockeys who ride them, to the punters in the cheapest stands - as a model of class-ruled society. "Bookies represent the purest form of capitalism," he has said. "They buy and sell nothing and, like the money markets, react instantly to market forces." A Freudian might see Wallinger's stallions as the embodiment of tamed sexuality.

Gee up! In 1993 Wallinger bought a racehorse and called it

A Real Work of Art. It proved a non-runner, and he sold it - as art - to a German collector. For Self-Portrait as Emily Davison, Wallinger registered the colours of the Suffragette Movement with Tattersalls and posed in jockey's silks in purple, white and green.

What a critic said: "Never mind if your art is dull and incompetent: as long as it is relevant and politically correct, you are on safe ground. Sarah Lucas and Mark Wallinger are the chief torch-bearers for this particular form of mediocrity ... Wallinger's [pictures] are pedestrian pastiches of Stubbs" - Andrew Graham-Dixon, reviewing "YBA II" in 1993.

Gallery: Anthony Reynolds.

Costs: pounds 5,000 to pounds 30,000.

Mates: he's slightly older than the rest - he was a recent post-graduate of Goldsmiths' when Hirst & Co arrived there.

Quo Vadis? Wallinger's hang-out is the Delfina Studio Cafe in Bermondsey, where "resident" artists can lunch for a quid. He designed the label for its house wine.

Next moves: Istanbul and Johannesburg Biennales, in September. In London he'll be showing Dead Man's Handle: four electric train sets - called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - whose motion (says the press release) "provides a witty commentary on the cyclical parallels between earthly and spiritual life, on birth, life and death, and on resurrection and redemption".

MARC QUINN

Born: London, 1964.

Educated: he didn't go to art school. He went to Cambridge (graduated in 1985), and then became assistant to the sculptor Barry Flanagan.

First came to notice: with "Bronze Sculpture", shown at White Cube, his gallery, in 1988.

What does he do? Shocks - in sculpture.

What's the most shocking thing he's done? In 1991, he cast his head in nine pints of his own blood, the amount of plasma present in the human body (it was taken over a period of five months). He stood the head on a sci-fi-style refrigerator, encased the lot in a box and called it Self (right). Quinn's head subverts the notion of sculpture as solid and immutable: pull the plug on the unit and it would melt. It appeared in "YBA II" in 1993.

How did the blood go down with the critics? "It seems probable that this is the first time such a gesture has been performed by an artist, so Quinn can at least claim to have risen above the crisis of originality. But outlandishness can't make up for witlessness. The head-shaped plasma ice- lolly has novelty appeal, and that is about it," wrote Andrew Graham- Dixon in the Independent. By 1997, the paper was arguing that "minestrone soup would have done just as well".

Hasn't the head been in the news recently? Yes, Quinn and Self got mentioned quite a bit in comparison to Anthony-Noel Kelly, the sculptor who was arrested a few months ago for allegedly using snatched bodies in the preparation of his work.

Have other heads rolled? Earlier, Quinn made bronze busts of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (1989). He made the heads out of bread dough and baked them. Dough rises in unpredictable ways, so the heads came out of the oven strangely distorted.

What else does he do? Works in latex: You Take My Breath Away (1992) is a thin skin bearing the imprint of his body. It is exhibited hanging like a discarded condom. More recently Quinn has made sculptures of exploding bodies - The Blind Leading the Blind (1995) is a male figure, cut off at the knee with his chest ripped out.

Is Quinn reaching a wider audience? He made a memorable appearance on television earlier this summer, on the South Bank Show. Franca Cereghini's film about him included the sight of the artist moulding a self-portrait bust out of his own faeces.

Will they're be blood on the walls of the Academy? No, but it might be on the shelves of the RA's shop: Quinn is trying to create a perfume from his blood. If he can overcome the technical difficulties, it will be sold, by the bottle, alongside other items of "Sensation" merchandise like Mona Hatoum's "Asshole" lapel pin and the Chapman brothers' Stephen Hawking phonecards.

Mates: he's a good friend of Hirst - they're often in the Groucho together. Neighbours in Clerkenwell include the Chapmans, Mona Hatoum and Gary Hume.

What next? Quinn will be in the show "Body" in Sydney, and he has solo exhibitions in London and Germany planned for 1998.

LANGLANDS & BELL

Born: Ben Langlands, London 1955; Nikki Bell, London, 1959.

Educated: Middlesex Polytechnic, 1977-80.

Dealer: Victoria Miro Gallery.

Early appearances: the couple's work was exhibited here and abroad from 1978, but their big break came when they appeared in the first YBA show at the Saatchi in 1992.

What do they do? Architectural models, mounted on walls or encased in furniture.

So are they architects? No, they're artists concerned with the nature of architecture. Langlands & Bell's reliefs and models explore the internal geography of buildings. They ignore facades and elevations, and show a building's plan in cross-section (such as Ivrea, 1991, below) . They want to examine the ways in which built environments affect, and are affected by, human behaviour.

They sound a bit like Foucault. Foucault analysed institutions in order to understand their dispersion of power. The buildings that Langlands & Bell choose to dissect are ones whose architecture characterises the socio-political bases of contemporary culture. So their models are of corporate headquarters, prisons and the seats of political power.

How they explain it: "The history of architecture is the history of structures of power."

Why do they put the models in cases? The frames are part of the piece - they contain the architecture that contains us.

Best-known works: their model of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, which shows how the building's design is a manifestation of the authority of its President. Maisons de Force (1991) consisted of seven white chairs whose glass seats housed models of a prison in Ghent. "Aside from the fact that the chairs are very beautiful, they turn upside down the perfectly sensible commonplace notion that chairs sit inside buildings: in Langlands & Bell's world, buildings sit inside the chairs," wrote Jonathan Glancey in the Independent last year.

Another critic's view: "Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell ... subject buildings, tables and chairs to a visual scrutiny that undermines their original functions," said Tim Hilton in the IoS. "Some of the pieces are amusing, but the general depressing message is that all buildings and objects of use have been devised by someone else to control us. This opinion ought to make Langlands & Bell into anarchists. Their bland and meticulous craftsmanship suggests, however, that they are part of the controlling system, since they understand it so well."

MONA HATOUM

Born: Lebanon, 1952.

Educated: Byam Shaw School of Art (1975-79); Slade School of Fine Art (1979-81).

First came to notice: in Portsmouth in 1982, where she appeared naked, coated in clay, in a piece called Under Siege. This resulted in a press furore which instilled in her a phobia of the media. "The headlines were really awful, really obscene." She didn't give an interview until 1995, when she talked to the Independent on Sunday. The encounter climaxed in Hatoum crying out:"God, what have I said?"

What does she do? Video and sculpture. Deep Throat (below) was made last year, but most famously Hatoum photographs her insides. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1995 for Corps etranger, in which she filmed her intestines by sticking fibre-optic cables through her orifices. In Measures of Distance, she exposed the intimacies of her relationship with her mother, using her letters. The words "When you were here the whole house was lit up by your presence" were read over stills of her mother's voluptuous naked body.

Where does she fit in? She's not sure she does: "I feel like I've been working in this country for 20 years, but I've had more encouragement abroad." But the Turner Prize nomination "is approval from home". And her work does fit in with that of other YBAs: she is seen as "very fin de siecle". Corps etranger and her earlier sculptures, which involved bits of her own pubic hair, are typical of the present aesthetic. The impact of Aids has created a fear of the body and Hatoum's work speaks to that. Corps etranger is like a voyage into the preoccupations and phobias of a generation.

What she said: on the necklace she made from balls of her own hair: "I like the idea of it being in the Cartier window with all the expensive jewellery around it, like the sacred and the profane."

What next? She's having a solo show in Turin and will be represented in the "British Artworks" exhibition in Athens. !

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