Saatchi back with new gallery, school programme, China show, – Reuters, BBC


COLLECTOR SHOW CHINESE ART

Influential British art collector Charles Saatchi is back after three years out of the limelight, opening a major new gallery in central London showcasing some of China’s hottest artists reports Reuters. The man who introduced the world to Britart stalwarts like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin has been largely absent from the art scene since his gallery was forced out of its previous home on the River Thames in 2005. Now he is back with a huge new exhibition space in upmarket Chelsea, where he hopes free entry to the imposing former headquarters of the Duke of York will attract passers by.

Critics have lauded the imposing three-storey building with its glass and white-walled interior, and welcomed back one of contemporary art’s biggest players. But the inaugural show, opening on Thursday, has earned mixed reviews.

The Revolution Continues: New Art from China” is dedicated to Chinese artists including established stars like Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Fanzhi, whose painting fetched $9.7 million in May, a record for Asian contemporary artwork.

Some critics have categorized the crazed, laughing men of Yue or the gray, stylized portraits of Zhang as repetitive, even “mass production” art.

Generally more popular were the sculptures, particularly an installation piece called “Old Persons Home” by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, involving 13 aging men on wheelchairs moving randomly around a large basement room. Their striking resemblance to late world leaders turns the work into a commentary on the pitfalls of power and conflict. The gallery calls it “a grizzly parody of the U.N. dead.”

But the gallery’s head of development, Rebecca Wilson, said Saatchi’s target audience was less the experts — critics, collectors and curators — and more the general public, most of whom are unfamiliar with contemporary Chinese art. “There was a feeling that all of these artists were suddenly emerging from China, doing very well at auction, there were the Beijing Olympics coming up,” she told Reuters. “There was this kind of convergence of interest in China, so we felt it should be the exhibition that we open with.”

IRAN, IRAQ ART TO COME

Early next year the Saatchi Gallery will put on a show dedicated to contemporary Middle Eastern art, including from Iran and Iraq, by artists never seen in Britain before.

“None of those artists have been seen in this country before and will be very little known elsewhere in the world as well,” said Wilson. “I think Charles has been searching for months to try to find interesting works.”

Saatchi sells some art after an exhibition ends, partly to fund his enterprise. Auction house Phillips de Pury is supporting the gallery to ensure entry will be free.

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BBC coverage:

Only free contemporary art museum in world

The BBC reports that the Saatchi gallery claims to be the only completely free entry contemporary art museum of its size in the world. Simon de Pury, of auction house Phillips de Pury & Company, who is sponsoring the exhibition, said they expected “millions” of visitors.

Ground-breaking school education programme to come

The gallery said it was seeking to establish a “ground breaking” education programme “to make contemporary art even more accessible to young people.

“It is anticipated that the facilities that the Saatchi Gallery plans to offer – at the gallery, via its website and the gallery’s own classroom – will ensure that teachers receive the best on-site and outreach support for their students.”

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Artists: Zhang Dali, Zeng Fanzhi, Wang Guangyi, Zheng Guogu, Zhang Haiying, Zhang Hongtu, Zhang Huan, Qiu Je, Xiang Jin, Shi Jinsong, Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun, Li Qing, Wu Shuanzhuan, Shen Shaomin, Li Songsong, Zhan Wang, Liu Wei, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhang Xiaotao, Cang Xin, Shi Xinning, Li Yan, Bai Yiluo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Zhang Yuan, Yin Zhaohui, Feng Zhengjie

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