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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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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