The Impostures of the new Lorenzo (Tract 4)

First Salvo Against the Saatchification of Art

If the present exhibition “The Triumph of Painting” proves anything, it is neither that painting has returned  in triumph nor that it is redundant or “dead”, but rather that the promoter of the show, its host and the owner of the exhibited works, Charles Saatchi, shifts his art world “loyalties” in much the same way that he might change his socks.

Saatchi claims to be a collector of art, but this is rather disingenuous. Saatchi is in fact a shrewd dealer who has levered himself into a position of considerable importance in the art world. Most of his “art collection” is warehoused – frequently bought wholesale, this is not art for enjoyment but large-scale investment. He uses his wealth to manipulate fashionable taste, giving him his extremely influential position. He can, and frequently does, make and break artists. If he were an honest dealer he would at least be shown for what he is, but he poses as a collector and benefactor of the arts, though this is nothing more than camouflage.

The bad-boy (or girl) posturing of the Britart crowd was precisely, and nothing more than a posture, designed to “sell art” and promote their celebrity. Now that he (and the public) tires of such tarnished novelties, Saatchi can  stage-manage an exhibition of painting as a much needed and on-cue return to serious art, traditional values.

Saatchi devalues the meaning of the art he engulfs, the art ceases to matter.  For whatever the intention of the artist at the point of creation of the work, its absorption into the Saatchi machine obliterates the meaning of the art, reduces it to the level of commodity and PR material for the real objective: CELEBRITY.

It is necessary to stress that we are not making aesthetic judgements here; the works variously, and almost indifferently, constitute the good, the bad and the ugly. The quality of the art is not the point to us, nor it seems to Charles Saatchi. Consequently, whether or not this art ever had a message, it can now only communicate money and celebrity. Miserable and miserablist, it incarnates the message of art as spectacle, obfuscation, a depression and a flattening out of all values. The contents of the Saatchi Gallery – and, indeed, Charles Saatchi himself – should be set on fire without delay. The spectacle of their conflagration would the closest any of them have come to a genuine work of art.

“Saatchification” is NOT some isolated phenomenon, in fact, it’s simply the highest (or most degenerated!) form so far of artworld-as-capitalism. Saatchi is both cause and effect  within the present everything-has-a-price-tag milieu,  where advertising, media and culture are tools for mass demoralisation and control. Making and breaking artists is just a part of it.

For surrealists this can only be a betrayal of the poetic impulse that informs all genuine creativity. Art is neither and end in itself, nor a propaganda tool, but an expression of that freedom in which art is bound to a poetics of lived experience. Surrealism offers the only alternative to this sorry state of affairs. The solution is not merely a rejection of Saatchi et al, but an overturning of the whole rotten system.

The London Surrealist Group


~ by londonsurrealistgroup on April 12, 2006.

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