How Saatchi and his YBAs influenced leading Asian artists – The Observer


Ben Lewis, in a review of a new book, The History of the Saatchi Gallery, published in The Observer in July 2011, reveals the influence that the Charles Saatchi-created Young British Artists (YBA) phenomenon of the 1990s had on the emerging Asian art scene.

Subodh Gupta, 'Mind Shut Down', 2008, Frieze Art Fair.

Subodh Gupta, 'Mind Shut Down', 2008, Frieze Art Fair.

According to Lewis, Saatchi’s YBAs not only dramatically altered the art scene in Britain, but their influence can be noted in the work of top Japanese, Chinese and Indian contemporary artists.

Takashi Murakami, a Japanese Warhol – perhaps the most successful pop artist at the moment, with huge studios in Japan and NYC, and a show currently at Gagosian’s Britannia Street gallery – enthusiastically cites Hirst as an influence. So does India’s Subodh Gupta, who makes various $1m skulls, wheels and nuclear explosions out of amalgamations of Indian tiffin cookware. The most famous artist of the moment, Ai Weiwei, imprisoned and then released by the Chinese authorities, is another YBA-influenced figure with his huge studios in China, where a team of assistants follow his instructions delivered in mobile phone calls and occasional visits, and where scores of old Chinese earthenware vases half-dipped in random primary colours are arranged in large grids as installations.

Click here to read the article, titled “Charles Saatchi: the man who reinvented art”, in its entirety.

Ai Weiwei, 'Coloured Vases', 2010, 31 Han Dynasty vases and industrial paint, dimension variable.

Ai Weiwei, 'Coloured Vases', 2010, 31 Han Dynasty vases and industrial paint, dimension variable.

And it is not just Saatchi’s curatorial genius that was enlightening. His collecting model is also credited by Lewis as influencing the “entire Chinese art market”, driven as it is “by Chinese speculators who Charles inspired.”

However, it seems clear, at least to Lewis, that Charles Saatchi is having trouble adapting to “the socially networked age we live in.” Over the last ten years, Saatchi has tried and, it seems, failed to emulate the success he had with the YBAs in Asia and beyond.

Charles would tell us all about the YAAs – young American artists – in his exhibition USA Today – and the YMEAs in Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, not forgetting the YCAs in The Revolution Continues: New Chinese Art. Much of the time, Charles was following a few years behind the trend….

Hayv Kahraman, 'Heads On Plate', 2008, oil on linen, 173 x 106.5 cm.

Hayv Kahraman, 'Heads On Plate', 2008, oil on linen, 173 x 106.5 cm.

Will Charles Saatchi continue to influence the many emerging Asian markets? Or has he lost his once ground-breaking curatorial and acquisitional touch? Tell us what you think: leave a comment below.


Related Topics: Saatchi – collector and gallery, Asian contemporary artists, art collectors, curatorial practice

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How Saatchi and his YBAs influenced leading Asian artists – The Observer — 4 Comments

  1. I would be interested in learning what people think of the ideas and the curatorial practices of Nicolas Bourriaud. He strikes me as more attuned to the `network’ possibilities. And his `relational aesthetics’ (or if not `his’ the concept his popularly identified with him) has its affinities and analogs in the practice of artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija.

  2. Dear Sang,

    Every success despite of its namely central claims is based upon hard work, knowledge and at least a fairly good vision. This has always been a recipe not with the exception of Charles Saatchi.
    As we can vividly remember the utopian perspective of french post-structuralist philosophers through the new age of media, hyper reality, cyber world and postmodern condition, there where few back at those days who have been well informed of the way that these facilities may act in their near future. Discussing one of the most prominent art collectors and promoters of our time recalls a fair deal of modesty, though his claims cannot be justified in very points.
    I think considering Saatchi’s probable devotion to arts that has lasted for decades as merely a model is an underestimation.

  3. Thank you, Sang Luo, for your comment. We agree that there are exciting times ahead for those collecting art and we have certainly noticed a shift, as writer Ben Swift points out in this article, towards an emphasis, whether substantial or not, on curatorship and scholarly critique.

  4. Is Saatchi Model + social networking proficiency = perfect collecting model? Not necessarily. What we can deduce for now is just the Saatchi Model has gradually lost its momentum, partly due to his lack of adjustment to the social networking age. A new model is yet to come and no one knows what it will be like until it finally comes. Just as what we did with other unbelievably successful models in the past.

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