Friday, 12 February 2016

Saatchi Revisited

Stephanie Quayle, Two Cows, 2013 (artist copyright)
I used to love going to the old Saatchi Gallery in St Johns Wood. There was something incongruous about heading out into the boonies (at least that's what it felt like) to see strange and wonderful artworks. Not everything was great, but there was always the possibility of seeing something good in the days when there were no YBAs, just artists who were getting started. I've always thought looking at art is the best way of whiling away a Saturday in London, particularly when skint, and in the late 1980s/early 90s you could find people like Sarah Lucas showing their work in funny little galleries that were basically empty shops.

Virgile Ittah, Echoue au seuil de la raison, 2014 (artist copyright)
Then came 'Sensation' at the RA and with all the hype and hooha I felt that the youthful fun went out of the revolution launched by Hirst and co. at Goldsmiths in the previous decade. Some of the artists went on to produce fascinating work worthy of Biennale halls, others didn't.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I found myself in London with my daughter, who is taking Art for A Level. When asked what she wanted to do she replied without hesitation: visit the Saatchi Gallery. By which she meant the new version on Kings Road.

Seung Ah Paik, Maitreya, 2012-13 (artist copyright)
I went with what I hoped was an open mind, but did suspect that the work would be idea-based and reliant on technology. Far from it. The best artworks on display in the current exhibition, 'Champagne Life' (other sparkling wines are available), involve the inventive use of traditional media. Technical skill and knowledge of art history are much in evidence, but there's emotional depth too, not to mention that hallmark of old-school Saatchi, humour.

Mequitta Ahuja, Rhyme Sequence Jingle Jangle, 2012 (artist copyright)
The work fit well in nicely-proportioned rooms, with almost no clutter (barriers, text panels, etc), and there seemed to be schoolkids everywhere, sketching, chatting and taking pictures with their phones. My daughter found lots to inspire her.

'Champagne Life' is at the Saatchi Gallery, Kings Road, until 9 March.

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