Apocalypse: Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art

Norman Rosenthal with Michael Archer, Michael Bracewell, James Hall, and Nathan Kernan

Photography by Norbert Schoerner

A Royal Academy of Arts Publication (2000)

Softcover, 256 pages

200 illustrations in full color

11 x 115/8″

ISBN 10: 0810966328

ISBN 13: 9780810966321

Apocalypse accompanies one of the most exciting art events of the year 2000. Concentrating on themes inspired by the coming of the 21st century, this internationally significant exhibition – the successor to the controversial “Sensation” exhibition – will include installations, paintings, sculptures, and videos, many specially created for the exhibition by 15 internationally renowned and controversial artists. For the catalogue, the talented photographer Norbert Schoerner has photographed the artists at work in their studios. Norman Rosenthal, exhibitions secretary at the Royal Academy and curator of the exhibition, contributes an introduction explaining his personal vision of the arts at this turning point in history.

The horror, the horror. Three years after Royal Academy Exhibition Secretary Norman Rosenthal organized the controversial Sensation exhibit comes the sequel, Apocalypse. It takes as its philosophical starting point the Book of Revelation, though the subtitle exposes a compromising catch-all: Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art. The kitsch creations of Jeff Koons and Mariko Mori and the casual photography of Wolfgang Tillmans provide superficial beauty, while the most obvious horror is Hell, Jake and Dinos Chapman’s truly apocalyptic sculpture comprising nine glass cases arranged in a swastika, containing 5,000 figurines of Nazis and their torturers indulging in unspeakable sadism. This Goyaesque vision of eternal return is the centerpiece of the exhibition, and rightly so. […] 

Rosenthal’s attractive catalog for these memento mori from his 13 international Cassandras lends the exhibition invaluable context and strategy, especially given the apologia passing for notes on the gallery walls. Alongside a CV are photographs of other works by each artist, followed by stills of their apocalyptic exhibit. […] Intended as a bifocal survey incorporating history and the postmillennial present, “Apocalypse” proves not so much a sensation as a curate’s egg.’ – David Vincent