Dave Lancet reports from Brooklyn, New York, 2 October 1999

I attended the Sensations art opening at the Brooklyn Museum of Art Saturday afternoon, and upon leaving the exhibit I asked myself if the show was, indeed, "sensational". My answer was, "No, nothing overly sensational about it at all", with, perhaps, one exception. That exception, ironically enough, was Chris Ofili, the man in the middle of the controversy here in New York.

When I looked beyond Mr. Ofili's "Holy Virgin Mary" and saw the rest of his works in the exhibit, I saw something strangely out of place. Whereas cynicism and sarcasm can be seen from the remainder of the show, there is a positivity coming from Ofili's work, a mirthful praise of one's self and ancestry, quite stunning, really. This was lacking throughout the rest of the show. How Mr. Ofili fits in with the rest of the Saatchi Collection is a mystery to me.

As for the rest of the show, it was hardly memorable and unimpressive. What it amounted to was a re-exploration of the dadaist and fluxus art movements. These influences were as heavy as lead. Yes, it is art, but on the whole, simply not great art.

A couple of things I'd like to bring up, as well. I was a little surprised to see Tracey Emins' tent at the exhibit. She was completely ignored by the media and the press release given to promote the show. I also got a chuckle from the placard explaining her piece. It asked,"Who exactly is Billy Childish?" I was very tempted to turn to someone and say, "I know who Billy Childish is. He's stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck." Turn and walk away.

The last thing I want to mention is as I waited on line for the exhibit, a man stood behind me wearing a sign which read "Stop public funding for catholic bashers." If someone tried to take his picture, he'd turn away from the camera.

As we reached halfway through the line (an hour & a half wait into the museum), the guy was approached by a reporter. The man behind me, who claimed to be a lawyer from Queens, was answering questions, along the way, referring to all the people on line as "bigots".

"Excuse me," I responded as politely as possible, "I do not regard myself as a bigot."

"Fuck you!" he quickly snapped back.

"I'm sorry, sir," I continued, "I thought I was entering a debate with a lawyer, not a junior high school adolescent."

"Fuck you!" he repeated.

"That's not a very catholic thing to say." someone nearby said.

"Fuck you, too" he blurted once more, his words rattled through his teeth like sabres.

Sensations Art Exhibit? Nothing sensational about it, simply sensationalism.

Dave Lancet

Mr Lancet is the curator of the Fringe Gallery in Newark NJ.

For further reference see the Guardian: Sensation seekers defy mayor as show goes on

The Observer: Britart Sensation defies New York mayor to live up to its name

The New York Times: Museum Says Mayor Knew Nature of Exhibit 2 Months Ago and Didn't Object (includes links to recent coverage)

Home | News