Wild-child artists look forward to an academic old age

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The Independent Online
In a declaration which will amuse the art world, the Royal Academy said yesterday that it was "inevitable" that wild-child artists like Damien Hirst and the Chapman brothers would become academicians.

The revelation came from Norman Rosenthal, its exhibitions secretary, as he announced a full-scale autumn exhibition featuring Hirst and the brothers and other radical British artists such as Mona Hatoum, Rachel Whiteread, Mark Wallinger, Marcus Harvey and Sam Taylor Wood.

Given that Hirst is notorious for pickling animals, Hatoum has made art from her pubic hair, Wallinger declared that a race horse was a work of art and Jake and Dinos Chapman sculpt child mannequins with penises in place of noses, the thought that they could be taken to the academy's stuffy and chandeliered bosom somewhat beggars belief.

Of course the artists themselves might take the view that it would be the kiss of death for their credibility, given that their art is dedicated to shocking the Establishment, not joining it.

But Mr Rosenthal was undaunted by this hurdle or the distress his news could cause the 79 present academicians - of whom none is younger than 40 and most are considerably older.

"I think some will become members of the Royal Academy," he insisted. "During the 1960s nobody would have imagined that the bad boys of that era, like David Hockney and Peter Blake, would become members."

The club - which usually consists of 80 academicians under 75 - has an archaic system of selecting new members which involves artists being nominated in a candidates' book, attracting support from five other academicians, and then winning the most votes at a general meeting.

Mr Rosenthal revealed: "The names of all the [new wave of] artists we have been talking about will be in the candidates' book, sponsored by a number of academicians, so they will be on a list which will be elected from in due course."

The matter will be thrust into the forefront this autumn, when the RA unveils Sensation, a keynote exhibition of work from Charles Saatchi's extraordinary and impressive collection of new British art.

His collection is based around the recent explosion in the art world led by the likes of Hirst, Whiteread, Hatoum, and Wallinger, and began in the cutting-edge exhibitions they staged the East End in the late 1980s.

Hirst, who is acting as an informal consultant, will have about six pieces in the show, which is to run from 18 September to 28 December. They are likely to include his notorious Mother and Child, Divided, of half a cow and half a calf, and his pickled lamb Away From The Flock.

Whiteread will also feature heavily in another signal that the authorities will live to regret demolishing her seminal concrete sculpture, House, cast from the shell of a Victorian working-class house in Bow, east London.

Also on display will be Marc Quinn's iconic Blood Head, a sculpture cast from his own head and filled with his own blood. It is less clear if Wallinger's A Real Work of Art, which comprises a racehorse which he bought and renamed for the purpose, could manage the front entrance steps.