Young British Art

Sixteen years separate “Freeze,” the legendary 1988 Damien Hirst–curated exhibition that gave birth to Young British Art, and Tate Britain’s recent “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” a show that signaled both the phenomenon’s institutional apotheosis and, for many, its creative swan song. A three-way collaboration between Hirst, Sarah Lucas, and Angus Fairhurst, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was classic YBA: simple themes—sex, death, religion—dispatched in fairground style, and aesthetics ranging from miserablist to spectacular. Full of gaily colored fish, spooky animatronics, crucifixions, various sexual organs and body parts, large animals, and larger numbers of squashed or imprisoned insects and crowned by Hirst’s Pursuit of Oblivion, 2004, a crowd-pleasing, aqueous tribute to Francis Bacon’s innards-and-umbrella Painting of 1946, it’s an exhibition in which, as critic Adrian Searle lamented in The Guardian

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