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The art of Dazed

Former art editor Mark Sanders recalls getting the Chapman Brothers to resit their GCSE, along with the spread so graphic it saw the magazine pulled from stockists

To mark our 25th anniversary, over the next two weeks we’re opening up the pages of Dazed to bring you a curated edit of the best of our archive, from 1991 to 2016.

“Nobody was covering art at all so we decided to be proactive and collaborative. We wanted the magazine to be a platform, not just for ourselves but also for young photographers and artists.” So recalls Dazed’s first ever art editor Mark Sanders, who joined the magazine back in 1993 – going on to commission game-changing coverage which came both to define the pages of Dazed and reflect an incredible time for British art. By deciding to work with artists (including Barbara Kruger, Mark Quinn, and the Chapman Brothers) on special projects rather than simply interview them, Sanders reframed the traditional relationship between arts and editorial, utilising Dazed as an anti-establishment platform to introduce new ideas, opinions and commentary surrounding contemporary art.

Responsible for the demise one of Jake and Dinos’ sculptures, publishing a feature that got the magazine taken off the shelves, and interviewing Damien Hirst while “absolutely paralytic”, Sanders talks us through five of Dazed’s most memorable cult art moments.


“Jake and Dinos Champan and I were sitting in East London, talking about ideas over a drink and we thought it would be really funny if they went back to college to resit their art GCSE exam. From that moment, everything spiralled. I had to find a college that would allow them to sit the exam, but in such a way that no-one knew who they were. This was all happening in 1998, so they were very well-established artists. I found a place in Notting Hill and they did it under their own names. The actual teacher of the college was aware of who they were, but the students weren’t. The work they produced ranged from an interpretation of Pol Pot’s death mask, to mushroom clouds – just weird, wonderful stuff. When they sat the exam, they both wore suits with ties, in which we hid secret cameras to record the exam. They both had radio controlled ear mics, I was in the McDonalds on the other side of the road, watching everything, saying things like, "Jake, show me Dinos, give us a full view of what’s going on.” Their paintings were absolutely fantastic. Jake did one called ‘Lurid Nightmares Of My Bank Manager’ that was this cartoon-esque figure of a bank manager with a thought bubble and Dinos did a twee little painting of woodpeckers pecking on holes and trains going into tunnels – it was all about sex. One painting got a B+ and the other got a B- and we published the whole thing in the magazine.”


“I did this with the Chapman Brothers too, these are my two favourite pages in history. We made up this performance artist from South Africa, a character called Bruce Louden. The idea was that he cut bits of his body off and presented them as art. In this particular interview – his last big performance piece – he had cut his own tongue out. Jake arrived at my flat in West London and we made a deal not to talk to each other, instead we each sat alone on a computer. We were trying to replicate an interview as if it’d been done over the internet, so I wrote questions and he typed out answers, Jake played Bruce and I played the journalist. We had some amazing questions, it was all about the use of the body. This was at the time when Damien Hirst was putting all his animals in formaldehyde so we just took it one step further. I remember one fantastic question that I asked Jake, which was hysterical: ‘Are toenail clippings considered works of art?’ He answered, ‘Only as Maquettes’, which are tiny little sculptures. 

To cut a long story short, we set it up in the studio at Dazed & Confused, got a cow’s tongue and fake blood that someone had to put it in their mouth, and then Phil Poynter took the photographs. We did the whole thing, designed it up, and it went out in print. WHSmith just couldn’t handle it at the time so they refused to sell the magazine. I remember Rankin calling me up saying, ‘What the fuck are you doing? You’re trying to ruin the magazine. You’re killing us!’ I didn’t think it was quite so funny when I had to go back in on the weekend with everyone – I’m talking Katie Grand, Katy England, Phil Poynter, Jefferson, Rankin – to go through 20,000 copies of the magazine with a razor blade cutting out the feature. It took about 40 hours with hardly any sleep. The irony was that my article was called ‘Cut-out and Keep’. We cut them all out and the magazines went back to WHSmith, then we printed an advert in next issue that basically said, ‘If you noticed there were some pages missing from the last issue, send us a stamped addressed envelope and we’ll return them’.”


“There’s a better story about an obscure advert in the magazine, that again links to Jake and Dinos Chapman. We did a party and they leant us one of their really early sculptures called Mummy Chapman. It was a female mannequin covered in penises and vaginas. So we had a great party that went on until five or six in the morning and the mannequin had been stood in the foyer at the entrance to the party, but when everyone was leaving I looked at the mannequin and I realised there were probably only three penises left on it, the other twelve had been broken off and stolen. I'm like, ‘Fuck’ – I call Jake and Dinos to say I’m sorry about what’s happened to the sculpture and they were pretty cool about it. They said they could mend it if the penises were returned so we put an ad in the next issue. On one page it said: ‘Penis Amnesty’ and on the other it said, ‘If you were at the Dazed & Confused party on so-and-so date, and you stole a penis off Mummy Chapman, please come to the office and place it in the brown box in the foyer. No questions will be asked. Leave the penis with your name and address and we will give you a lifetime subscription to Dazed and Confused’. We got about eight back, but it was never repaired. It was only last year when I got the Rizzoli monograph of the Chapman Brothers and saw the word ‘Destroyed’ under a grainy black and white photo of the sculpture that I realised I actually completely destroyed a work of art.”

“If you were at the Dazed & Confused party and you stole a penis off the Mummy Chapman sculpture, please come to the office and place it in the brown box in the foyer. No questions will be asked”


“In 1998 the Shiseido Gallery in Tokyo gave us about £20,000 and said, ‘Make a show, and do whatever you want’. We could do anything, so me and Phil went out and we got Damien Hirst, Jack Webb, Sam Taylor-Wood, the Chapman Brothers, Nick Knight – you know, all of those lot – to do work on the theme No Sex Please, We’re British. Damien’s artwork ended up being some girl bending over with a vibrator up her bum which said ‘Merry Christmas’ on it. Sam Taylor-Wood came into the office and got everyone to strip off for one of her Five Revolutionary Seconds pictures – the whole of the office got naked. Then Jack Webb did a series about suburban sex, what people get up to behind their net curtains. I think there were about 15 really heavy photographs. Anyway, Phil and I arrived at the gallery and it was very Japanese, very polite. We unveiled the work and the director, Keiko Toyoda, burst into tears absolutely distraught, because in Japan they have very stringent rules on showing any kind of genitalia and pubic hair and there was all of that stuff going on. Phil and I went back to the hotel and I felt awful (I’m actually a really nice person). The show was in three days and Toyoda was very sad, so we came up with an idea. We went and found the equivalent of children’s fuzzy-felt, which we cut out exactly to shape in black, and stuck on all of the offending areas. We wrote a new press release and said that the show was all about Japanese and European censorship. The Japanese media went mad for it. Both Phil and I were interviewed by Japan media about censorship and the whole thing was a huge success. Toyoda was smiling by the end.”


“I went to Damien Hirst’s house in Combe Martin for what was supposed to be a day, but he wouldn’t do the interview for a week. Everyday Jefferson would call and ask, ‘Have you got an interview yet?’ And every time I’d be like, ‘No’. Basically Damien did this crazy thing where he really tested me. It was really interesting. He kept saying, ‘You’ve got to stay here’, so we really got to know each other. Combe Martin’s famous for having the largest number of pubs on one street, I think there are 14 or 15 all the way from the hill to the coast. So Damien made me do a pub-crawl with him and in each pub we’d have a game of pool and a drink. We went all the way down and I was absolutely paralytic at the end of it, but still no interview. The next day we’d do something else – more drinking – and this was at the time when Damien was really drinking. No interview. It went on and on until I was at my lowest ebb. Then, after six days of torture he said, ‘Come on, we’re going to go have breakfast at the pub’. Next to my breakfast there was a double whisky. He said, ‘Drink that, it’ll be good for you’. I was like, ‘I can’t, I really can’t’. He said, ‘Right, I want to do the interview now’. ‘Now,’ I said. ‘Yeah, now’. I was like, ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake’. In the end that was a fantastic interview, all about art, contemporary art, and the language of advertising. For Damien’s work in particular, that’s a really apt subject. Interviews and alcohol often went hand-in-hand back then.