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Post #265 • April 28, 2004, 5:11 PM • 1 Comment

Charles Saatchi's got his knickers in a snit over the criticism of his latest show.

Speaking at the weekend from his mansion in London's Belgravia, he went on: "It is pitiful that so many critics find it easier to review me than the art."

I don't think Mr. Saatchi realizes how happy it makes critics when they realize they've gotten under the skin of one of their favorite targets.

He said: "Although there are some critics out there you can learn a lot from, too many of them know remarkably little about new art, cant cope without their PC guide-book or a press release, and are always, but always, ten years late getting their heads around anything new."

How bad was it? Adrian Searle for the Guardian:

Charles Saatchi had almost completed installing New Blood at his gallery at London's County Hall last week when we met by chance. "Let me write your review for you," he said, enraged. "I'm a cunt, this place is shit, and the artists I show are all fucked. Will that do for you?" I almost wish my views could be expressed with the same vigour, precision and exactitude. It would save a lot of time.

At least some of the wounds were self-inflicted, apparently.

I'd much rather talk about the art than the collector, on whom the media has something of a fixation. He has brought all this attention on himself, not least by opening his high-profile gallery in County Hall last year, and bringing out a book of the collection called Young British Art - The Saatchi Decade. Some private British galleries would be hard put to survive without his purchasing, and some artists would probably be unknown without him. He gets a lot of stick, sometimes even from me, and sometimes from the artists he collects, or fails to collect. He can't win. ... It is worth saying that he wouldn't matter so much if there were other collectors in this country with as much financial clout as he has. There are many in Europe and the US. Some are extremely serious, collecting in depth and forming coherent collections, while, equally, there are some who make even Saatchi look a model of rectitude. Saatchi buys, he sells, he puts the art he buys - and himself - in the spotlight of the media. He's a self-admitted show-off, more PT Barnum than Svengali. His effect on the British situation is an unavoidable and continuing subject, and one can't ignore the context.

Money quote:

Some of Saatchi's curating games work well enough - he does have an eye, and a sense of humour (which is sometimes overlooked) - but most of his juxtapositions of different artists' works are happenstance. There is much here that just looks lost, out of place, homeless.

That wasn't so bad. Emma Saunders for the BBC:

David Falconer's Vermin Death Star is somewhat disturbing - a repellent pile of rats twisted together to form a huge meteor. But it has a predictable feel about it and fails to have the impact of the early work of Emin, Hirst and company. Perhaps art-lovers' senses have been dulled in the few years since the Brit art scene exploded. But the exhibition is worth seeing for its variety alone - paintings, sculptures and installations veer from the quiet and restrained to the loud and outrageous. And while some of it is superficial and instantly forgettable, there are a few gems that could put a new generation of YBAs on the map.

Not the worst I've ever seen. (Apparently in England it's okay to start three sentences out of four with conjunctions.) Martin Gayford for the Telegraph:

But, you might ask, is any of it any good? Well, while I didn't really go for the work of any of the artists listed above, except the last - I found plenty to enjoy.

Laura Cumming for the Guardian (They sent two reviewers to one show? England is art criticism heaven!):

Saatchi says it three times in the name of his new show, or collection, or outlay of recent shopping trips: just new blood, new youngsters, new purchases. No attempt to invent specious labels or groups. No irony or self-promotion (remember Ant Noises, anagram of Sensation?). Just going back to where it all began, with an echo of that first neutral title, Young British Artists, which gave the name to that whole phenomenon.

So it's both modest and jokily immodest all at once, but with a main aim of disarming the visitor. And to a certain extent, just for a while, it may even put you in the mood for picking through jumble. A mood of curiosity - this is new, haven't seen this before, didn't know they were doing this in Tokyo/ Copenhagen/Leipzig - and happily of benign indifference.

So the reviewers generally laid off the man and gave his show a fair shake with mixed reviews. What is all the umbrage about? Specifically, this, according to ArtNews:

"Some of the most graceless, puerile, pigignorant art I have seen for years," fumed Waldemar Januszczak of the Sunday Times. "Almost entirely lurid, ephemeral twaddle," opined Matthew Collings, former editor of Artscribe, in the London Times. Independent critic Tom Lubbock even went so far as to conjecture whether Saatchi had created most of the works himself. For Lubbock's periodic attacks on the new gallery, he has been asked by the Saatchi Gallery for a formal apology.

But that's it, making me wonder if Saatchi's outrage is yet another PR gimmick. Saatchi says in the Scotsman article linked above:

Ive grown into my role as pantomime villain," he said in an interview, "but it is mindless to dismiss the art I show just because it's me that is showing it.

But it's even more mindless to conclude that the critics are dismissing the art because he's the one who's showing it. Some of it looks awful, purely on its own terms. I guess pantomime villians need shadow-puppet opponents to get through the day.

(Roadcorp compiled the reviews. Artsjournal quoted the Scotsman.)

Comment

1.

Jack

April 29, 2004, 4:26 AM

Methinks that Saatchi doth protest too much. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too. As long as he's news and generates strong responses, he's more or less got what he wants. What would really hurt him is indifference, being ignored. Note to Charles: Sorry, mate, but if I'm going to cry, it surely isn't over the fact that everybody doesn't love you.

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