Has Charles Saatchi Lost His Senses

Charles Saatchi

‘New Sensations’ exhibition upstaged by ‘The Future Can Wait’, but both lack punch

Two schemes for emerging artists, both launched in 2007, have in this year joined forces to create a museum-scale survey of emerging art at B1, Victoria house in Bloomsbury Square. The first is New Sensations run by the Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4, aiming ‘to find the most imaginative and talented artists’ completing BA and MA courses in the UK in 2011; the second is The Future Can Wait, with the mission of ‘showcasing and promoting London-based or educated emerging artists’. For the exhibiting artists, the stakes are high: previous New Sensations exhibitors have seen sales of work, patronisation by galleries, invitations to exhibit both in the UK and internationally, and shortlisting for other prizes; similarly, TFCW has led to opportunities for young artists to exhibit in Los Angeles, Helsinki, Berlin, Rome, and Naples.

In the New Sensations section, highlights include: Julia Vogl’s coloured-coded hand sanitising pumps for ‘Disinfecting Your Dirty Deeds’, and correlating to a set of badges to be worn according to your particular sins – ‘here for the booze’, ‘seeking artist’, ‘academic’, ‘critic’, ‘curator’ etc; as well the two works by Ronin Cho – one an automated door knocker, with a sensor-activated dismembered hand that bangs ferociously (and a little terrifyingly) whenever anyone walks close by, and the other a ye-olde electric chair with a translucent cast arm strapped into it and clutching a Blackberry smartphone. But on the whole, with a prevalence of derivative painting, this is fairly prosaic stuff – new perhaps, but sensational it is not. Momentarily, one is left wondering whether the Saatchi machine, the maker of the YBAs, has lost its touch – but then memories of the summer’s MA shows come flooding back: unsensational though it may be, this show is an accurate representation of current new graduates.

The judges – who include Kate Bush (Head of Barbican Art Galleries, and featured on ArtLyst’s PowerLyst 2011), Rebecca Wilson (Associate Director of the Saatchi Gallery), Tabitha Jackson, (Commissioning Arts Editor for Channel 4), and Tony Chambers (Editor-in-chief of Wallpaper magazine) –, picking from the available pool of 2011 graduates, have done a good job.

TFCW’s exhibitors are considerably better, with highlights including Danny Rolph’s super-hyped techno-coloured [sic] Perspex paintings, James Jessop’s faux-naive cartoonish horror canvases, and Francesca Lowe’s mock-metaphysical depiction of Madonna’s Legacy. The standout pieces of this show, however, were two examples of sculpture – the first being Alastair Mackie’s weighty bullet-come-dildo on a pedestal in one corner, and the second being the deeply sinister waxwork of Wendy Mayer in another, featuring the head of an elderly woman sticking out the top of a rotund pin cushion.

But, despite the hype, both look and feel like student shows. Because ultimately that’s what they are. If every picture tells a story I’ve already heard this one.

Words Thomas Keane / Photo Paul Carter Robinson © 2011 ArtLyst

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