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Sensationalism: Young British Artists

The Young British Artists (YBAs) are taking a word and running with it, creating a whole other art style that they’ve grown popular with. Sensationalism is the use of something (whether stories or art) to shock someone, regardless of accuracy. This is done to get the public rather excited or interested in them. While the media is quite guilty of sensationalism, reporting false information for more views, hits and airtime, the Young British Artists are taking this word by the reigns and creating art that’ll invoke emotion within the audience.

Sensation is an exhibition that was owned by Charles Saatchi. While he wasn’t the only artist in the exhibition, many of the Young British Artists were featured in this exhibition. Taking place between September 18th 1997 to December 28th 1997, this exhibition took the world by storm and with controversy, too! The controversy wasn’t only found in London, as it spread like wildfire to New York due to images of Myra Hindley and even the sacred Virgin Mary found in the art pieces. Myra Hindley was a murderer, notably from the Moors Murders, and Virgin Mary is someone scared in the Christian faith.

The exhibition featured work from 42 different artists, totaling 110 pieces of sensationalist art. When it first opened in London, of course the media was on top of it. It created mayhem and a frenzy between dozens of media outlets. Overall, the exhibition not only featured shocking subjects, but also morbid and sexually explicit subjects. With the amount of controversy, the exhibit had, the media couldn’t keep up with the abundance of images and art pieces featured within Sensation.

In Berlin, Sensation was actually quite popular, showcasing a year later. While the popularity was booming, critics were not, exclaiming that it was more sad and depressing versus the funny and show stopping vibe that was originally intended. The extension of the exhibit says otherwise though, as it went on for more than a month after the first finale date. Media and critics didn’t care for it probably because they subconsciously feed into sensationalism, whereas the audience who willingly goes respects the art and the sensationalism around it – they understand it, or at least tried.

Finally, in New York, Chris Ofili had the most controversial piece called, “The Holy Virgin Mary” during it’s opening from October 2nd, 1999 to January 9th 2000. This exhibit lasted longer than the others, and it was because people couldn’t believe their eyes. This key and controversial piece in the Sensation exhibit was a mixed media piece of art that used oil paint, glitter, and polyester resin. The Virgin Mary was depicted as a black woman and was quite sexually explicit. Even the famous Mayor Giuliani had commented on how awful and [sick] the painting was. It shocked people, and what the media fails to realize is that they are guilty of just that: sensationalism. The act of reporting something in a way to shock someone, disregarding the accuracy of what is being reported. The Virgin Mary wasn’t a harlot, nor was she black and her being painted as such was inaccurate and shocked even the most inaccurate media outlets. They were hypocrites.

View art prints by Sensationalist artists here.