A much controversial exhibition titled “Apocalypse” was inaugurated on September 23rd 2000 at the Royal Academy in London.
“Apocalypse” means beauty and horror in contemporary art. This exhibition first induces visitors to crawl in a small labyrinth and to feel immediately claustrophobic. Coming out from it they fall upon Pope John Paul II desperately trying to disengage himself from a fallen meteorite, a work titled “The Ninth Hour”, created by Maurizio Cattelan who has been the object of fierce criticisms from Catholic circles.
What Cattelan wanted to suggest was Christ about to die and to resuscitate showing the pope in terrible pain.
Visitors are also baffled when they come across a bus stop on which is written “Auschwitz”, a work produced by two brothers, Jake and Dinos Chapman who are interested in reconstituting bloody events of the 20th Century. Full horror is met with the vision of mutilated bodies and smoke coming out from a crematorium.
Contemporary artists seem much inclined nowadays to tackle bestiality in their works and are miles away from the notion of beauty and mystery exhaled by their elders a few decades ago.
Much influenced by images of war and violence shown on television, these artists have had the feeling that could reach a new momentum in art by diverting them. Whatever their motives, they are giving a kind of shock therapy to visitors but one is not sure that it will be for the sake of art.
Still, such experiments might explain present attempts to define new concepts as did Duchamp during the 1910s and that something more tangible will come out soon in the field of contemporary art. It remains that most visitors at the R.A seemed shocked and baffled by what they saw.