newspeak part 2 at the saatchi gallery

22 November 2010 § 3 Comments

Steve Bishop

Following the unremarkable Newspeak: Part 1, Charles Saatchi‘s review of ‘British Art Now’ continues with the opening of Newspeak: Part 2. I conducted a gloriously unscientific review of the critical opinions following Part 1 and planned to subsequently add the latest assessment to create an overall league table of artists and a full review of critical opinion to cover the whole.

Sadly, the second, similarly unremarkable, part has proved so unattractive to newspaper editors that only a handful of major papers have run a review. Here then, is a less than comprehensive selection of reviews followed in the next blog by a critics selection of artists – both good and bad.

Tessa Farmer

By way of a brief reminder Newspeak: Part 1  was, almost in one voice, branded as unco-ordinated – ‘a mess… the contents of someone’s attic’ (Independent). The quality was perceived as indifferent; ‘some good, some mediocre, some ghastly’ (FT) with ‘one or two instances of inspired brilliance’ (Guardian).

Five months down the line, we sadly have much more of the same. I wandered through one attractive space after another loosely filled with largely indifferent and uninspiring art. The critics agreed that Saatchi had perhaps once again used a scattergun approach to selection. ‘Arbitrary’ was Amy Dawson’s view in the Metro, adding that it is ‘difficult to make sense of this baggy hotch-potch of the good, the bad and the downright ugly’. Brian Sewell wondered if the work ‘truly represented British art Now’ whilst Laura Mclean-Ferris commented that the curating was ‘basic and clunky’ and that ‘if you want to see an exhibition that defines current art practice  Britain [then] this is not it’.

But was there a deeper concern – that there was actually not much good art out there to select from? Brian Sewell thought that, contrasted to Sensation and the period following, ‘there is nothing to excite nor offend’ … ‘British Art has fallen in to a trough of sameness’ (Standard). ‘There is little to get excited about’  concurred the Mirror.

Mustafa Hulusi

The only mild dissent, if you like, came from Richard Dorment in the Telegraph. He commented that the show was ‘strong‘ and gave a ‘good idea of what is going on out there’ but in the end what was out there was’ just the great big simmering bouillabaisse of good, bad and mostly mediocre art that we’ve been seeing for decades now’.

Once again there was little personal criticism of Saatchi himself and Brian Sewell seemed to hit the nail on the head observing that he was really ‘part impressario and part Svengali, part Barnum and Bailey’ and stepping in where the Tate should had not, to support the here and now of British art. It seems that – in the end – one has to say that there is not much confidence or consensus in quite what there is right here and right now!

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§ 3 Responses to newspeak part 2 at the saatchi gallery

  • criticismism says:

    The gallery might have been better off putting all the best works from parts one and two into one show and running that for as long as they needed to.

    It will be interesting to compare Newspeak with British Art Show 7 when that hits London next year.

  • Critically, yes I totally agree. However, as we know, Saatchi is a wise businessman and sidelining some hundred works will of course do nothing for their future resale value! I think that we are stuck with viewing his mistakes for a few years to come – that is until he quietly offloads them to the chagrin of their galleries …..

  • […] David Brian Smith originally had to insert his middle name in exhibition catalogues to avoid confusion with multiple others of the same name. Nowadays it is less necessary as his talents have become more widely recognised. Picked up by the wily Carl Freedman gallery in east London Charles Saatchi has been quietly buying a few works – most recently The Birthday Party in a February charity auction. Smith recently featured in his Newspeak: British Art Now II exhibition, which incidentally closes on the 30 April 2011 – if you have not yet been it is well worth a visit – see previous post. […]

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