Galleon and Other Stories, Saatchi Gallery
It was the peculiar intensity of the critical attacks levelled at New Blood, the last show at the Saatchi Gallery, that reaffirmed that old cliché about the English hating only one thing more than failure— success. Held in the grip of a collective Oedipal impulse, many in the contemporary art world have been sharpening their knives for the father figure of Britart, declaring that his days as a tastemaker are over.
However, just as it has been for the past decade, the Saatchi Gallery remains the best single place to see new British and international contemporary art, for Charles Saatchi still sees more new art than anyone around and much of it ends up here, as in this exhibition of recent acquisitions from 11 artists, Galleon and Other Stories.
Though eclectic in range and mixed in quality, there are happily none of the howlers that so disastrously infected New Blood, though JFC Bible Burgers by Mally Mallison, a deliberately cack-handed installation apparently about the relationship between neo-Nazism and East End kebab shops, comes close.
Large and notable sculptural pieces dominate. Beneath the Stride of Giants, a Viking longship created by Brian Griffiths from bits of old furniture, exudes a faint air of poignant elegy for the age of epic heroism, an air which is sustained by New Yorker Annie Chu’s modern take on ancient Western and Chinese funerary sculpture. In contrast, Conrad Shawcross’s engaging Light Perpetual, a kinetic wooden sculpture, revolves with the neurotic speed and self-possession of contemporary society.
Simon Bedwell, survivor of art collective Bank, introduces a welcome note of bitter irony with a series of everyday, cheesy posters in the long corridor, onto which he has stencilled understated and amusing legends.
Across one, of a white stallion galloping in a fragrant meadow, he has graffitied “The rich will always be with us”, creating a piece that looks better than it sounds.
At the other end of the irony earnestness spectrum is Jamie Shovlin’s obsessive installation of fairly accomplished drawings by Naomi V Jelish, a fictitious but artistically precious 13-year-old of Shovlin’s invention who disappeared leaving only her work behind her.
As this and other recent shows have proved, no group as good or exciting as the Young British Artists has emerged recently. But if one does, it is likely that it will be Saatchi — as long as he continues to put on exhibitions such as this one and New Blood — who displays them first, which is why his gallery remains a space worth watching.
Until 30 November. Information: 020 7823 2363.