The Trouble With Saatchi – A Controversial Piece.

Most of my posts have been about art that is inspiring and visually gorgeous; but every now and then I feel the need to look at the other side of the coin.  So the story today begins with ex-advertising moghul turned art collector, Charles Saatchi.   He has been, over the last two decades, one of the most influential art collectors in the world, and certainly the most important in Britain.  He has, through the artists he has chosen to patronise, shaped the way the art world looks today. It is he who was behind the rise of Brit Art, or the YBAs (Young British Artists) – of course they are not so young anymore- but still dominating the scene. The group includes Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, the Chapman brothers, Mat Collishaw, Sarah Lucas, Rachael Whiteread and Angus Fairhurst. Since the YBAs, other artists have followed suit, rising to prominence, such as Martin Creed.  Would Martin Creed have received acclaim had he not come after the likes of the afore mentioned artists? probably not.  His masterpieces include a piece of blue tack on a wall, a light switching on and off, and a piece of paper crunched up and rolled into a ball (I still remember seeing this ‘work’ in the Arnolfini in Bristol, proving that it is memorable, though not for the right reasons!) Creed’s work is not humorous like Duchamp’s.  It is just utterly, mind numbingly stupid.  What is worse though, is that his art is displayed in Britain’s most prestigious galleries! This begs the question, why? Perhaps it has something to do with Saatchi.  That he helps out young, struggling artists is a good thing.  The issue is that he is in a powerful position, thus one that comes with responsibility.  Therefore, I think it a shame that, with the same lack of conscience that is required to become an advertising moghul, he buys art.  His discretion is missing. Like the media, he provokes by choosing works that shock, that have that sensational element, that are needlessly perverse.  Anything goes, as long as it fulfils the above requirements. (To be fair he has found some good pieces).  This trend is now filtering into to schools and art colleges – unless it is a political message they are conveying, then students must produce art that shocks, or repels, or defies all prior ideas of art (re-blue tack) if they hope to make it.  I feel that this limited criteria kills creativity rather than instigates it. This is a sad state of affairs.

On the positive side, Saatchi has made some good moves.  His Saatchi Gallery website includes a page which any artist can use to sell their work on, commission free.  Lately, too, he has turned to buying art from other regions of the world.  Thus, the British public have been introduced to contemporary art from India, China, America, and the Islamic countries. Saatchi has managed to source some interesting works from the East. Over the last twenty years in Britain, the concept has come to dominate the visual, to the point that much art has become entirely elitist and mundane, therefore it is refreshing to see that there is still more of a balance between the concept and the visual in other areas of the world.

In a sense, the art that has come out of Britain in the last two decades was a by-product of the economic boom and the religion of materialism.  Take for example Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull.  It was made not long before the credit crunch and seems to me to be the perfect illustration of society and of the art world in recent years. It very neatly suggests that materialism is a dead matter, it has no essence, no necessity and no meaning.

Damien Hirst rose to fame with his dead animals preserved in formaldehyde.  They make some reference, apparently, to the fact that man wants to separate himself from what he eats.  The wealth that Damien Hirst has accumulated can probably rival that of Saatchi’s. This may sound cynical, but watching Hirst speaking in interviews and so on, I can’t help feeling that he is having a good old laugh at today’s society, and especially at the galleries and the individuals that buy his art.  He has cornered the market and is now laughing all the way to the bank.

Rachael Whiteread began her career in quite an unusual way. She shot to fame with this haunting, inside out house which is made from solid concrete. It is chilling and an interesting concept.

Creed: light switching on and off…

Creed: crunched up ball of paper. (Creed’s imagination doesn’t even stretch so far as to try and create ‘concepts’ behind his work, it simply is what it is!)

And lastly, the famous unmade bed of Tracy Emin.  What does this work say to me? Only that Emin is really, really untidy.

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~ by bethiarose on May 26, 2010.

4 Responses to “The Trouble With Saatchi – A Controversial Piece.”

  1. Wow! That was definitely a shocking start to see the skull when I first saw the blog today, specially considering that I normally open this blog waiting for some beautiful and inspiring art work. However, by looking at it carefully, one may understand why it is an art piece. I agree that art is going through a confusing period since at least the half of last century. May be is the ideal of revolution, of creating something new and unique after the rising of a few genius until late 19th and early 20th centuries. When I visited the famous biannual modern art exhibition of Sao Paulo or the Centre Pompidou I found it hard but possible to find interesting things. I think there are some nice things in the middle of some that sounds nonsensical, meaningless or, let’s say, artless. May be it is all a reflection of how lost humanity has become lately, and shows how much we are in the need of a good sense of discretion.

  2. Hi Laxshmi, I’ve taken to reading your blog as I really like your view on art. I used to really struggle with the concept of modern art, especially the British aritists such as Damien Hurst and Tracy Emin and it used to irritate me that the so called art that these people produced was even termed as art, but as time has gone by I have started to find beauty in some pieces (not generally by the aforementioned!). I suppose either I am changing or the pieces are more artistic and we are moving away from the shock tactics of the 80’s and 90’s and to something that gives us pleasure or allows us insight.

  3. […] You may not know what Damien Hirst looks like, but you know his work. The controversial modern artist, who became the world’s richest after a blockbuster sale of […]

  4. too true! I think today I’ll be honest and delete my saatchi account…thanks!

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