Contemporary Art Market: Arresting art explores dark side of humanity

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The Independent Online
A LIFELIKE plastic rendering of tortured body parts hanging from a tree is the most arresting artwork in a Cork Street gallery this week. The artists, Dinos and Jake Chapman, intend it to convey a sense of sadistic pleasure but it makes some people sick. Charles Saatchi, the advertising tycoon and leading collector of contemporary art, has bought it for pounds 18,000.

The sculpture stands alone in the centre of the Victoria Miro Gallery (21 Cork Street, W1), a small white cube of space halfway down the street. Its creators, Dinos and Jake, are brothers who both studied at the Royal College in the late 1980s. 'Art is aesthetic terrorism,' Jake says. 'We wanted to present the viewer with an object of pleasurable transgression.'

The Chapmans have recreated in three dimensions one of the most famous plates in Goya's series of etchings, the Disasters of War. It depicts three members of the Spanish resistance who have been stripped, castrated and tied to a tree. One of them is suspended by his legs, with his head impaled separately and his severed arms slung from a branch. The brothers have used ordinary shop mannequins, whose satin- smooth flesh contrasts with the physical horror of the scene, especially the bleeding wounds where the genitalia have been cut away.

The Chapmans have been working on Goya's plates for some time. In 1992 they presented all 83 scenes from the Disasters of War in miniature - made up of toy soldiers - as a single grouping on a big white plinth.

The dark underbelly of humanity is also explored in Gloria Friedmann's exhibition at Annely Juda Fine Art (23 Dering Street, W1). Friedmann likes to highlight the interplay between living beings, excreta and decay. For instance, she arranged rabbits in hutches, surrounded by a wall of old washing machines, refrigerators and clothes driers, in the shadow of a nuclear power station earlier this year.

In the Juda gallery she has mounted 25 ox skulls in a 5ft square on one wall and placed a television with the sound turned off in front of it. It's called Direct Transmission and implies the direct relationship between life and death at a cost of pounds 12,500. The most spectacular piece, however, is Nature Reserve, a stuffed stag confronting a pile of broken refrigerators and freezers ( pounds 16,000).

The most collectable works in the gallery are what she calls her 'pariahs'. They look like pictures but in fact they are foodstuffs enclosed between two sheets of glass, allowing the viewer to follow the gradual process of decay. The caramelised leeks and oranges, in bright greens and reds, almost make pretty abstract patterns. Prices run from pounds 900 to pounds 5,000.

(Photograph omitted)

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