- Source: The Telegraph
- Author: Colin Gleadell
- Date: April 15, 2013
- Format: DIGITAL
Charles Saatchi launches ‘playful and mysterious’ new art show
It will be fun to see how many winners Charles Saatchi has backed out of 17 artists in his new exhibition, New Order: British Art Today.
Just as we are all mulling over the impact that Margaret Thatcher had on Britain, Charles Saatchi, whose name is indelibly linked with her election campaign slogans, is launching a new exhibition under a banner that sounds like a political trumpet call in itself: New Order: British Art Today.
Bold as it sounds, though, it’s hard to find any order or cohesion among the 17 artists selected. Is it that most were born in the Eighties and so could qualify as Thatcher’s children? Or that, although all of them live and work in Britain, they also represent this country’s multiculturalism, coming from as far afield as Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, France, Spain, and Israel, as well as from all corners of Britain?
In his catalogue introduction, the art critic Ben Street struggles to put his finger on something: “If there’s any collective spirit, it’s perhaps their interest in dismantling and estranging the received imagery with which we’re increasingly surrounded.” Perhaps, then, chaos is the new order.
Compared with the Russian art downstairs at the Saatchi gallery, which is thick with emotive political content, New Order on the top floor, at times sinister and obsessive, is more playful and mysterious. The only direct reference to Thatcher is a series of photographs by Dominic from Luton (his working name) in which the artist dresses in drag as Lady Thatcher in a wheelchair careering around a run-down council block.
Since Saatchi opened his magnificent Chelsea gallery in 2008, he has tried to attract global attention by devoting space, and considerable funds, to new art from China, India, the Middle East, America, Germany and Russia.
Squeezed into the programme in 2010 was Newspeak: British Art Now (note the constant repetition of “new” in the exhibition titles), and now it’s time to visit British art again – post 2010. For this, there has been no vanity publication as of old, but a pocket-sized, economically produced catalogue – a symbol of hard times.
As usual, Saatchi has shopped about. From the Bloomberg New Contemporaries show is a Hitchcock- style video of vultures descending on a table laid out for a dinner party in the desert leaving nothing but bones and upturned chairs in their wake. At the Royal Academy Schools he bought out an exhibition of big rambunctious paintings by Scottish student Charlie Billingham that were inspired by small 18th-century caricatures. Most cost no more than £1,000 each.
Four of the artists came to his attention though the nationwide New Sensation competition for art students run by the Saatchi Gallery Online together with Channel 4 television. From the companion event, The Future Can Wait managed by dealer Zavier Ellis come eerily truncated mannequin figures armed with elongated needles by Wendy Mayer. “Saatchi is still the collector young artists want to show with,” says Ellis, despite the risk of failure when Saatchi inevitably re-offers the work for sale.
Top of the gallery supplier list is Hannah Barry, a young gallerist who has three artists in the show. Self-confessed computer addict and compulsive rapper Nathan Cash Davidson makes paintings inspired by the Old Masters with strangely random titles. Sculptor James Capper, indulging his fascination with industrial machinery (example illustrated), is perhaps the most successful to date, fresh from exhibitions at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Armory Show in New York. James Balmforth plays with ideas of dysfunction and impotency with sculptures of a one-winged griffin and a soft bladed dagger. All three have worked with Barry since establishing a studio practise in run down Peckham seven years ago with a handful of other artists. In 2009, they famously hijacked the Venice Biennale with their own Peckham Pavilion in a manner reminiscent of Damien Hirst and the YBA’s in their Thatcherite heyday.
New Order, which opens on April 26, is promoted as “a chance to discover new artists of particular merit and promise”, and some will undoubtedly be taken up by the market. From Newspeak, Hurvin Anderson was already a hit after Saatchi missed buying at his gallery and had to bid high at auction.
Ged Quinn and Jonathan Wateridge became saleroom sensations later. I doubt whether the opinions of the critics had as much to do with this as the behind-the-scenes support of successful artists (Peter Doig for Anderson, Dinos Chapman for Quinn) and influential collectors (François Pinault for Wateridge).
The real opinion-formers are still to play their cards with this latest crop of artists, but part of the fun in the next year or two will be to see how many winners Saatchi has backed.
New Order: British Art Today is on at the Saatchi Gallery from April 26 – June 9.