In September 1997 the Royal Academy puts on its iconoclastic exhibition at the heart of the art establishment – Sensation. It causes a sensation and 300,000 people flock to see the taboo-breaking collection of artworks by a new generation of young British contemporary artists.
Inspiring protests, resignations and tabloid column inches, it rocks the art world to its core while cementing contemporary art at the heart of the public consciousness.
Contemporary art and young artists are propelled into the limelight, with some like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin reaching mega-star status. Art is now attracting huge audiences and this episode tells the story of the controversy around artworks such as Tracey Emin’s My Bed, Antony Gormley’s very public artwork The Angel Of The North, and the moment contemporary art finds its dedicated national home with the building of Tate Modern.
Contemporary art has never been more visible. Alongside it music and fashion ride the wave of British optimism.
The power of art prevails and the new millennium sees artists using their strength of voice to respond to modern Britain and a new generation of artists tap into the potential of art to make a political statement.
But the story of Contemporary British art doesn’t end here – it’s at the centre of the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies as nearly a billion people from around the world are treated to a celebration of British history and culture.
Sensationalists – The Bad Girls And Boys Of British Art – Tuesday at 9.00pm on BBC Two.
Image: BBC/Bohemia Films/Dan Baskerville.