Art collector Charles Saatchi has a gift for Britain. It includes Tracy Emin’s messy bed, Grayson Perry’s explicit pottery and a room full of engine oil. The advertising tycoon, whose patronage made household names of artists like Emin and Damien Hirst, announced Thursday he is donating his London gallery and 200 works in its collection to the nation as a new public art museum. The gallery said the works, valued at more than 25 million pounds ($37 million), will be given to the government. The 70,000-square foot (6,500-square meter) Saatchi Gallery will be renamed the Museum of Contemporary Art, London.
The artworks being donated include Emin’s “My Bed” — the artist’s famous recreation of her boudoir, complete with empty liquor bottles, condoms and cigarette butts — and Richard Wilson’s “20:50,” an eye-dazzling room filled with oil. There are also works by Perry — best known for vases adorned with disturbing twists on classical scenes — and artists from around the world, including China’s Zhang Dali and India’s Jitish Kallat.
Emin said she was thrilled by Saatchi’s gift. “I wish more people had that kind of vision,” she said.
Saatchi, co-founder of the Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency, was the main patron of the Young British Artists movement of the 1990s, which made Hirst and Emin millionaires.
He captured the public imagination with his 1997 exhibition “Sensation,” which included Hirst’s shark pickled in formaldehyde and Emin’s tent appliqued with the names of “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995.”
The show’s impact lived up to its name. When it opened in New York in 1999, then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani was so offended by Chris Ofili’s portrait of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung that he temporarily cut off funding to the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition’s success helped make Saatchi one of the art world’s most powerful figures.
“He was part of the perfect storm of British art’s success,” Perry said. Since then Saatchi — who is married to celebrity chef Nigella Lawson — has continued to collect, amassing a vast collection. The gallery said even after the donation, Saatchi would still own “many hundreds” of works.
“I think he has a scatter-gun approach but in his trawling he’s picked up some extraordinary stuff,” Perry said. “This is by no means an insignificant gift. It’s the cream of the crop.”
Saatchi’s current gallery opened in 2008 in London’s affluent Chelsea neighborhood and has mounted shows by emerging artists from India, China and the Middle East. Saatchi’s announcement is a boost to an arts community worried about looming cuts to government funding. Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has said ministries will have to slash budgets by up to 25 percent to eliminate the country’s record deficit.
The aim is to keep the space free to the public, with operating funds coming from individual and corporate sponsorship along with revenue from its restaurant, bookshop and rentals for outside events held there. The gift would also include artworks that could be sold to acquire other art so that the museum could remain a showcase for the latest works.
Rebecca Wilson, associate director of the Saatchi Gallery, said as well as the 200-strong core collection, the gift includes other works that can be sold to buy new acquisitions to keep the collection changing and current. The British government has not yet accepted the gift, although discussions are in progress, said Ruth Cairns, a spokeswoman for the Saatchi Gallery, who added that she had no timetable for a final decision. Also unclear is when Mr. Saatchi plans to retire, which Ms. Cairns said had not yet been determined. A statement from the two-year-old gallery also said that Mr. Saatchi would receive no tax benefits from the gift.
She said Saatchi “wants to give London and the country something it wouldn’t have otherwise, which is a very agile collection that can respond quickly to developments in contemporary art from all over the world.”
The owner of the building that houses the gallery on London’s King’s Road, Cadogan Estate, said it hoped the new museum would remain in the same location “for the foreseeable future.” Wilson said the gallery’s staff and management team would stay in place, and Saatchi, who turned 67 last month, was not planning to retire anytime soon.
“He just wants to prepare things for the future and make sure the Saatchi Gallery retains its unique character,” she said.
Check out also an Interseting article about art donations, by Sarah Murray from the Financial Times, who wrote “Art smart: how to donate artworks”.
A show of new work by the American artist Clay Ketter opened in London this week at Bartha Contemporary. Ketter, who has lived in Sweden for over 20 years, is renowned for creating art works through the investigation of construction techniques. His work on the surface has a beautifully minimalist aesthetic, but the real interest lies beneath the layers in a “truth to materials” approach and the perfection of the process. Previous works of furniture installation and framed plaster work recall fêted American Abstract Expressionists such as Donald Judd and Mark Rothko.
Gulf Coast Slabs embraces the medium of large scale photography to continue the construction theme. After Hurricane Katrina Ketter decided to return to his native land to see the damage done for himself. He was accompanied by photographer Nils Bergendal and together they found whole neighborhoods where only the foundations of buildings remained. Like ghosts of the recent past, the slabs revealed the outlines of what were once happy homes.
Using a crane to elevate themselves directly above the site Ketter and Bergendal recorded what look like illustrated architectural floor plans, colored in with the texture and colors of vinyl floors and bathroom tiles. The odd bits of strewn beams and pieces of plaster board fallen at an awkward angles break the grid-like pattern. If studied closely random domestic objects such as plates, toilet bowls and cracked glass table tops can be seen. All around the edges of these strangely clean swept slabs vines and grasses are growing wild, showing nature returning to reclaim these man-made remains.
Ketter, who worked as a builder and carpenter for many years, was deeply moved by the destruction of these homes. He described the experience of making this work as “emotionally grueling” and in the catalog produced by Bartha Contemporary he writes, “This book, and the body of work represented here, is dedicated to the people of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, in particular of Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Waveland. We are forever grateful to these people, some of whom we have had the pleasure of meeting. Their former homes are the subject matter of this project… We were as cautious as possible in our project, imagining, without truly knowing, the weight of this catastrophe and the scars it must have left behind…To receive such warmth and hospitality from these people, who had been dealt such a cruel hand, was both moving and inspirational.”
Gulf Coast Slabs. Through 18 May 2008. Bartha Contemporary,136b Lancaster Road, First Floor, London.
Tel Aviv Loves Art, an (almost) all-night art festival will be held in Tel Aviv on Thursday 25th of October 2007. The idea is to keep galleries and public art spaces open all night, and to have outdoor installations and activities in the streets, sudden performances on street corners, and projection screens all around the city showing art and art related projects – At Raw Art Gallery we will be exhibiting the great exhibition by Uri Dotan and Avraham Pesso – so, if you have not seen it yet, this is a great day to stop by, have a drink and enjoy!
The Gallery will be open all night!
The global art market is worth around $1 trillion a year, but just like the global music market it is ripe for disruption. Just as in music, there are many artists struggling both for recognition and to make a living from their vocation. But art galleries traditionally charge a whopping % commission on sales, and with fierce competition for physical space, it’s not easy to break through and achieve success.
ArtFlock.com aims to change that and become “the foremost online destination for the sale and promotion of original art and craft by the worlds’ freshest artists and makers”. The site launched in April/May and had 20,000 searches for art in its first month. It operates a ‘fremium’ model whereby basic accounts are free, and it’s possible to upgrade to a premium account for £4.99 a month or a ‘pro+’ account (which adds more customisation) for a one off £300 and £4.99 a month. Free accounts are limited to 200+ images and the pro accounts have unlimited storage.
One of the keys behind Artflock is watermarking. There are two types of watermarking functionality. The FreeFolio account, places your name across the middle of images you select. The pro account allows you to select font, colour, position, size and opacity of the watermark.
Obviously you can sell work, but the site claims that artists are often commissioned on the basis of the work displayed. (It seems there’s a business model here to be explored – more “on demand art” as it were?).
Where ArtFlock gets disruptive in terms of the wider art market is that it takes a commission on sales of 10% on pro accounts and 25% on free accounts, substantially less than the 40% of the average physical art gallery.
Founder Ed Lea has bootstrapped the site since launch. It has 850 artists so far and £350,000 worth of work available on the site. Future plans include being able to allow users to upload a picture of the room where they will display the art and then place a virtual copy of the work inside a room in their home to see how it would look.