Meanwhile in Minneapolis

"All aboard, room for one more upstairs..." Three British bobbies were lined up like a Gilbert and Sullivan chorus, the incongruity of their bus conductors' cries compounded by their accents, an unholy melange of cockney and Minnesotan. Actors playing PCPlod were the least of this event, the opening of "Brilliant! New Art from London", the most hyped show in America, let alone Minneapolis. Here was the first major retrospective of young British art, but in a city few Londoners could locate, in the heart of America's conservative farmland. This incongruity was evident at the opening Punk & Circumstance party with Mid-western versions of everything from guardsmen to a "Jungle" rave, even a British makeover room where locals were transformed "from Mod to Punk and back again". There were scandalous souvenir photos, "Your mug in the tabloids", darts " in the British pub tradition" and a Brit lookalike competition resulting in many bowlers and brollies, yet won by a soccer hooligan with a Union Jack head. This wackiness and the booming backbeat of Cockney Rebel made the work itself seem tame, whether Damien Hirst's dots or Rachel Whiteread's mattress, lost in the excesses of jokey nationalism.

The odd location in fact makes perfect sense. Richard Flood who curated "Brilliant!" previously ran the Manhattan gallery that first showcased these Londoners in America, and by charmed co-incidence, exactly 30 years ago the Walker gallery hosted "London: the New Scene". This 1965 show was a culmination and summation of British Pop, from Allen Jones and Peter Blake to Bridget Riley, but soon afterwards this supposed scene quietly dissolved, with many, like Hockney, staying in America. In fact, the artists in "Brilliant!" are a far more genuine group - friends who live, work and sleep together - than the 1965 team ever were and the idea of moving to America, magical back then, now seems faintly provincial.

Whether such major museum retrospectives automatically signal the end or no, it will certainly be hard to mount more such shows without a certain irony or embarrassment. By the evidence of the long weekend that kicked off "Brilliant!", it seems there is still plenty of energy left in the "Teen UK art-terrorist" trope, if only in terms of the participants' social stamina. If the hooligan is Britain's most familiar overseas representative, our plastic artists have a not entirely dissimilar reputation abroad. It seemed appropriate, and perfect PR, that a group of them were ejected from a bar for table dancing towards dawn.

Nineteen of the 22 hipsters had been flown out and the entire shenanigans were subsidised by Beck's beer, launching its arts sponsorship in America. For 10 years Beck's has been ubiquitous at every modish London art event and for this symbolic recapitulation it provided not only lavish funds but also their rare artist labels, six-packs of which were carried off by wily American collectors. The presence of these collectors, including an elderly Californian couple who hosted yet another party for their proteges, was proof positive of the official status of the London phenomenon. This confluence of wealthy, elderly Americans with brash and highly specific London work could seem improbable, but the strength of these artists is exactly their cultural specificity, unlike those of 1965 whose iconography was more American than British.

The achievement of "Brilliant!" was to put together such diverse and often deliberately scrappy work in a cohesive framework, to make it museum- worthy while not dulling its combative iconoclasm. The result was altogether convincing, ideal white rooms filled with strange sounds, visual and psychic jolts, Matt Collishaw's Widow, a black-veiled loudspeaker emitting loud female weeping, Adam Chodzko's Secretors, synthetic teardrops oozing from the ceiling, Jake and Dinos Chapman's vast fibreglass model of Stephen Hawking on the top of a mountain, wreathed in dry ice. The impeccable interior was constantly challenged and subverted by the hundred or so works. Flood's taste is for the most provocative rather than elegant of British art and there was plenty to shock the natives. In fact, the all- sports radio station, K-Fan, had a day-long debate about Tracey Emin's Everyone I Have Ever Slept With - 1963-1995, a small tent with a surprising number of names sewn within. The show stretched across the city, one of the most challenging works located in an old factory, Michael Landy's Scrapheap Services, a recycling company for humans, complete with uniforms and shredder, an overt attack on privatisation.

In 1965 one British newspaper called "The New Scene" "... an exhibition which should never have been organised". We can only be grateful "Brilliant!" has been so coherently conceived and impeccably executed, at least ensuring young London art can now go out with a bang, albeit a Midwestern one.

n `Brilliant!' is at the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis until 7 Jan 1966

ADRIAN DANNATT

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices