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Charles Saatchi and the new art generation

May 24, 2010

The collector and contemporary-art king-maker is trying to create a new buzz of the kind that first surrounded the YBAs

Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Can the mogul with the Midas touch make it happen again? Back in the Nineties, Charles Saatchi, the ad-man turned art collector, put his money behind a gang of brash Goldsmiths-trained rebels and, all but single-handedly, transformed the entire British art scene. His Young British Artists (YBAs) became a boom-time brand. Opening the floodgates to Blair’s Cool Britannia, they stormed the Royal Academy’s establishment bastion and caused a complete sensation with the show of their work that went by that name.

But 13 years have now passed since this landmark exhibition. New Labour has passed out of government. The YBAs have matured into MABAs (Middle-Aged British Artists) as the inimitable Tracey Emin recently put it. And recession has drained the cash from once cut-throat bull markets.

Saatchi chooses this moment to launch his latest show.Newspeak: British Art Now is a two-part exhibition that opens next month in his grand Duke of York’s HQ gallery in Chelsea and presents his pick of the country’s upcoming talents. Will visitors be looking at the face of the future?

This is not the first time that Saatchi has tried to repeat his trick. In 1999 he was godfather to a brand new “ism”. It was the “brand” bit that mattered. “New Neurotic Realism”, nursed on hype and weaned on publicity, was given the sort of start that any ad-man would wish for his brainchild. A big glossy book was published. A two-part show was staged. By then the “new” of the title had been abandoned, but in truth, the entire venture might just as well have been abandoned. It would be easier to list all the names of the Osmonds than to remember just seven of Saatchi’s 34 Neurotic Realists.

This time, however, Saatchi is not presenting a brandable group of the sort that can easily be pushed — ready packaged — on to the public. These artists do not know each other (as the YBAs did), they share no common aesthetic, college background, sense of humour or London drinking hole.

Read more at:

Saatchi and the next generation

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