Saatchi Gallery

I have arrived to London to begin my studies at the Courtauld Institute.  While I am waiting to begin my studies and really put my nose the grindstone I have begun the biggest challenge of all, chipping away at the literally infinite number of galleries that there are here in international city.  There is so much to see, from the etruscan tombs to the freshest contemporary art that the oil paint is still drying.  The range is incredible, the quality inspiring, and the ideas intriguing.  In between “freshers” week events (as a new student at “uni” I get to have a week dedicated to helping me embrace my newbie status and meet others who are equally solo flyers in a big city), I went to check out the Charles Saatchi gallery.  

Charles Saatchi is quite a name around here, both for his personal eccentricity, business success, and love of art.  He  created this gallery to display his personal collection of contemporary art.  The rooms are big, with great lighting, and dramatic works.  There are 15 gallery spaces, each one showcasing different artists work with the identifying labels off to the side as to not interrupt the purely visual experience one should have with the works.  It is an easy gallery to navigate, and while the space feels full of gallery goers, no one ever has to get pushy for the right view.  Something about the space was quite perfect actually.  It breathed, it was simple, it showed art.  I couldn’t help but think about the galleries I had visited in Chelsea, New York.  They were a bit chilly (and not in temperature).  When I entered some of the galleries I wasn’t even sure I was allowed to be in them.  The work on display was thought provoking but often times intimidating in its curation.  Works were placed far apart, avoiding any real connections, thematic or aesthetic to be made between them.  When I was looking at the work, I had no idea where to begin.  It is one thing for art to be “weird” or “different” and it is another thing for it to be totally unapproachable.  

The Saatchi gallery didn’t use barriers around the art.  You were asked to respect the art, but to get close to it as well.  I could see exactly how the one Brazilian artist glued tracing paper together and then attached it to clear strings to suspend it form the ceiling such that the paper hung just above the ground.  I could see his handiwork, his innovation.  I also loved how every so often the visitor would come across a wall in the gallery that displayed pictures of the artists whose work you were viewing.  Along with the pictures was where they were from, their training, and a bit about their work.  Their pictures were individual, and their bios thorough.  Reading these as I perused the artwork in no particular order made me feel like I was getting to know more of a living movement, as opposed to an artist and the stuff they produce.  I was learning about a community, a community of thinkers, and makers.  There was the artist from Oregon doing college work, and the Japanese artist manipulating paper bags into beautiful trees.  In this gallery I felt in the presence of artistry, I did not feel like I was an outsider looking at objects that refused to reveal their meaning.  

There were two things that I couldn’t get out of my mind as I wandered around; perspective and perception.  One artist manipulated mirrors to make the viewer confused as to what was real, and what was produced, and illusionistic.  Another artist produced floor to ceiling ink vignettes that were hung across the gallery walls in no particular order, as if they were a film.  Each vignette was connected to another through lines but the perspectives used and content depicted in each one did not parallel.  And then there was another artist whose work was collages of  architectural interiors.  He titled one of his pieces, “I see it all now…some of it!”  His work gave the viewer every view of one interior but juxtaposed these views to create a space that could never exist.  Finally there was an artist that produced acrylic works that depicted homes from an ariel view.  Yet, he would select certain parts of the home to depict as if  we were viewing it at eye level.  These works were intentionally deceiving.  These works wanted to trick your eye and mind into thinking that what you were seeing was everything.  One would be getting the details of both the roof and the ceiling of a house in the same image.  We were getting “everything” in a sense yet when we got that “everything” our eye was confused.  The reality is that the eye cannot see all perspectives at once.  Just as in the works of art, whether it was the vignettes and entire narratives, or the ariel and direct perspectives, these things cannot so simply be put on the same surface and make sense.  Instead they have to be carefully orchestrated so that they work together to actually produce meaning.  I felt like the community I saw today was questioning the power of information and perception.  What is having information if it has no context?  What is perception if it is fickle, and dependent on circumstance?  I was intrigued by this pondering on the value of information for the sake of having information, versus the value of information for the sake of understanding.  The information age is certainly ours, and maybe there is more to it than meets the eye.  


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s