British artists, brothers, born in Cheltenham and London respectively. Graduates of the *Royal College of Art, they have worked as a team since the early 1990s. They are among the most controversial figures associated with the *Young British Artists. In the *‘Sensation’ exhibition of 1997 they exhibited fibreglass figures of pubescent girls fused into each other and with penises for noses. They also made a life-size three-dimensional version of one of the most horrific images from Goya's Disasters of War.
They have also made works based on the mutilation of other works: notoriously, a set of Goya's prints was given grotesque mask-like faces. Their work is undeniably memorable and striking, especially the set of tableaux exhibited in glass cases entitled Hell (1999) and depicting atrocities. (It was praised, unexpectedly for any work by artists of their generation and inclination, by Brian *Sewell.) This was destroyed in the Momart fire of 2004 (see Saatchi) and they made a second version, exhibited at *White Cube in 2008, this time entitled Fucking Hell. Their press release announced:HELL hath no furyLike a chapman spurned,So come see the second,‘Cos the first one burned.The Chapmans have claimed the inspiration of Georges *Bataille and that their work is an attack on the values of the Enlightenment of which Goya was an exemplar. They were roundly attacked by the journalist Johann Hari for this (The Independent, 7 February 2007). He argued that the attack on the Enlightenment was ultimately ‘Fascist’ in that it represented a return to unquestioned authority. (The same claim could be made about the actual implications of the thinking of Bataille, in spite of his anti-Fascist record.) The Chapmans' response that this was ‘a cheap fat ugly four eyed shot’ did not encourage confidence in the intellectual seriousness of their project. The critic Eleanor Heartney's comment that ‘they seem more interested in entertainment than existential angst’ may be near the mark. See also Royal Academy of Arts.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)