Shock of the view

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The Independent Online

That's the thing about shocking stuff. They learn to get a taste for it. The Royal Academy, once known above all for its oh-so-respectable annual Summer Exhibition, leapt into the headlines when it collected Damien's stuffed shark and Tracey's tent and all the other marvels of Britart into the Sensation exhibition of 1997. Most famously the portrait of Myra Hindley had paint thrown at it by an indignant visitor, thus proving Sensation worthy of its name.

Last year, the academy wallowed in the record-breaking popularity of its Monet exhibition. Now, however, it is determined to return to the shock-horror headlines that Sensation brought in. It seems an odds-on bet that Jake and Dinos Chapman's F****** Hell, a swastika-shaped tableau of genital-mutilated figures, will stir up an indignant headline or two.

The academy insists that the Apocalypse exhibition harks back to the 18th-century tradition of championing contemporary art. Admittedly, there is a difference in tone between Joshua Reynolds's portraits of gracious living and the weird works of the Chapman brothers.

Then again, what could be more disturbing in a 21st-century work than the suggestion that all is right with the world?