New Order: British Art Today. Saatchi Gallery visit.

British Art in another kerfuffle, perhaps is not surprising when once again it seeks for its meaning and definition within how much an oligarch might view its financial worth. Art as a hedge fund bet is always going to be examining itself via how well it meets the checks and balances of the asset purchaser. When you own the gallery you get to define what makes you pleased. Art is now like the premier league but with a bigger reference section in the library

Its a fabulous idea to allow young British artists to show their work to a wider public but one has to question the proclamation that in some way this encompasses British art. It is certainly a snapshot of art being produced in Britain today but the whole exhibition seems like a hastily assembled sketchbook of rag tag bits and pieces rather than a seriously considered take upon British artistic inventiveness.

There is a sense of weariness on Saatchi's part here, as if all the fun of acquisition has become a chore and much like a secret hoarder he has moved the things he thinks he likes to his swanky warehouse (gallery) not having decided wholly himself if he still wants them. The critics will of course serve their purpose and help perhaps to clarify the objects investment potential. Like a catalogue for a thoroughbred sale, Saatchi carefully places his objects with purpose, accumulating enough black type along the way to encourage that global tap on the nostril or is it now the phone bid. What a shame art works are born gelded.

This display of one individual's collection is as old as the Paris salons, excluding those not worthy of their personal taste. The art we are all interested in now of course are those artists who didn't meet the salons standards and weren't producing work that buyers were flocking to. They exhibited the new somewhere else, beyond the system, creating their own shows and believing in the intrinsic value of their work without need for the ratification of a soulless system. Time has moved on and so instead of the Salon we have the oligarch's gallery operating as a hosting service, server farms for the shifting of wealthy individual's data that emerge briefly at the appropriate designated hubs fully formed, and in this case claimed representative detailed 'knowledge' about British art.

What actually emerges however are 140 character tweets, art for the hashtag and traffic for the cafe and gift shop. Its a lack lustre assemblage that does a disservice to the vast majority of young British artists working with passion to make innovative and interesting work. I don't blame Saatchi as this is what he does, he is a capitalist and generally I like his taste but I think this exhibition shows signs of deep boredom and not truly a wish to present a picture of British art. It all feels it has been hastily assembled by marketing committee as a spring / summer fill in to generate some column inches or pixels of debate rather than a serious attempt at curation.

There is also a sense that true globalisation of the gallery space via the growth of the biennale has in some way made exhibitions such as this needlessly parochial. What is the purpose of a British art in a global marketplace? In a less connected world the emergence of the YBA's seemed a topic of relevance but what might one learn now at the Saatchi exhibition 'British Art Today' that one couldn't be more informed about through several hours surfing. As an art student myself my wish is to visit different countries, cultures and biennales and become informed about the global exploration of visual ideas. I personally don't feel any desire to want to make narrow art from a solely British perspective. Would any British artist working today see the world as Stanley Spencer did in terms of artistic content? Hirst may not be remotely as technically talented but his concerns were globally vital and one never felt he had a 'British' perspective.

It might seem strange that upon visiting an exhibition I do not mention a single artist included but this is precisely my point. Some of the art is good and I know the artists work and some is frankly not even worthy of an end of year degree show. To mention an artist under the context of the title of 'British Art Today' affords the exhibition something it doesn't deserve. There are more good British artists not here than here and I don't feel inclined to comment upon the personal collection of one man. That would be like commenting upon someone's preference for a certain type of wine. Saatchi's taste is his and he has the wealth to display it. The exhibition isn't for art lovers as they will already be fully connected to what British and global artists are doing. This is an exhibition for those who are too lazy to make their own minds up and who enjoy rummaging in other people's stuff.

 

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