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As a visual artist, BBC 2′s ‘School of Saatchi’ is one of the most depressing representations of the art world I have ever seen televised. These chosen 6 are being exploited. And they love it. Once their work has been exhibited in The Heritage, St. Petersburg, the chances are Saatchi will invest in it and never again will these artists have to worry about income, or getting their work shown (in other words, they will never have to work hard again), as the Saatchi machine will advertise and promote them with the same skill and success it did in the 80s with Silk Cut cigarettes and the Conservative Party .
Yes, Saatchi can make an artists’ career in a second but he can break it just as quickly and with the same ease. In ‘Supercollector’ an account is given of Sandro Chia, an artist whom Saatchi ‘bought up’, but quickly threw out of his collection (or ‘ISA’) ‘for works by other artists more strongly represented in the collection’ [and] hence they had not been sold on the open market ‘for the best possible profit’. They weren’t making money. Something else would. As painter Sean Scully remarked on his similar experience with Saatchi, ‘We are just pawns.’
Now some points about the show itself:
1) On several occasions, the panel, with the exception of Frank Cohen, displayed their shock and incomprehension of the idea that one could make art without having been to art school. Attendance at art school has never, ever been a necessary prerequisite to being an artist or producing artwork. Francis Bacon, Jeremy Deller, Billy Childish, Vincent Van Gogh, amongst many others, none of these now celebrated artists attended art school.
2) Let us remember that Charles Saatchi has no art background of his own, other than as a ruthless profiteer through the collecting of artworks. He is an advertising agent. All the artists selected on the programme are easily sellable, as they are easy on the eye and can be ‘consumed’ within a couple of seconds by the viewer. Note, as Kate Bush pointed out during the show, that Saatchi rarely, if ever buys, video, film, photography, performance. Because it does not provide a high enough, if any, profit margin.
3) Matt Collings on about Tracey Emin’s bed: Mr. Collings suggested that Emin’s ‘seminal’ work captured the essence of contemporary art, and part of that essence was that the public found it difficult to understand. 99% of contemporary art is shallow and superficial. There is rarely any content or meaning lying beneath the tenuous surface. There is, therefore NOTHING TO UNDERSTAND. The only difficulty most people have with the dross that is termed ‘contemporary art’ is the fact that it sells for so much money.
What saddens me most about the programme and its very concept is that is gives the very strong impression that the ultimate goal and aspirations of all visual artists, in this country at least, is to be bought by Charles Saatchi. I would rather starve to death than have anything to do with that evil, duplicitous, greedy vulture. But there’s no chance of that happening. He wouldn’t touch me with a well-rendered bargepole.