The Times of London skips past Charles Saatchi’s art star program–School of Saatchi–and straight to his current show in St. Petersberg, Newspeak that arrives in London next Summer. Can Saatchi repeat the success of Sensation in 1997?
“He is very good at spotting new talent,” says Bridget Brown, who advises companies on investing in art. “When an interesting new artist has a show you always see him there, and he arrives early. He often picks them up when they’re with young dealers. He does sometimes miss a trick — he bought Peter Doig very late in the day — but not often. He’s an obsessive and acquisitive person; to be a collector of that status you have to be.”
Can he, though, create an art superstar single-handedly? Brown says not. “It isn’t simply a question of a collector buying low and selling high — an awful lot goes on in between, with dealers working very carefully to develop artists’ careers. Critics, museum directors and curators all play a huge part.” Hirst may have risen faster than most, but this was thanks to his business sense and genius for self-promotion rather than any Saatchi-assisted short cuts.
What Saatchi can be credited with is helping to create the whole contemporary art scene as we know it now, without which none of the YBAs would have struck it rich.
“When he started going to their early shows in 1990, the situation both here and in New York was desperate,” remembers one long-term associate. “There were very few collectors, we didn’t have Tate Modern, and galleries were closing left, right and centre; so from then until 1994-5 he had very little competition and was able to clean up. Since then so many more important players have emerged that his influence has inevitably diminished. If Newspeak doesn’t have the same impact as Sensation, it will be because the cultural landscape has changed so much. Having said that, he still has an enormous appetite for art. He simply loves it: when he comes into a gallery and sees something he likes, his whole body language changes. He’s done a huge amount for art, and not just in Britain.”
So what effect will Newspeak’s visit to St Petersburg have on the Russian art world? Saatchi blazed the trail by sending USA Today, an exhibition of new American art from his collection, to the Hermitage last year. A London-based Russian dealer who wishes to remain anonymous sees these moves as a brilliant strategy for tapping into a highly lucrative aspirational market. “There is a cabal of curators, critics and gallery owners who want the world to believe that Russian collectors are among the most important on the international scene,” he says.
Charles Saatchi’s New Generation of Artists (Times of London)