The 1990s are dominated by the "Young British Artists," who swagger like sordid rock or hip-hop stars. Most prominent is Damien Hirst, represented by a psychedelic mandala of butterfly wings. It speaks of his obsessions with spectacle and death (remember the shark), but it feels like output of the factory of an art star, without the heft of his signature installations.

Another YBA is Keith Coventry, whose 2001 White Abstract: Wedding Kiss, Charles and Diana at first appears to be a frothy white-on-white painting, but on close examination reveals the royal bride in her veil on the left and the prince in his military uniform on the right. "I think the man on the street has always found the white-on-white painting to be an aggravating sort of art object," Coventry has said of his motivations. A rascally-ness runs through many of the works, running back to British pop.

In the end, there are many big names — Anthony Caro, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George, Mona Hatoum, Anish Kapoor, R.B. Kitaj, Yinka Shonibare, Rachel Whiteread — but few major works. For example, the earliest artwork is a watercolor landscape by the 19th-century master J.M.W. Turner that's tiny and feels washed out. And central figures are missing — Freud, Golds-worthy, Banksy, Francis Bacon. Call it a decent start.

Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , World War II, Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design,  More more >
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