My thoughts on ‘School of Saatchi’

School of Saatchi was an interesting reality TV style Art programme by the BBC and gave us a glimpse into the elite ‘Art World’ or ‘World of Contemporary Art’ as I have sometimes heard it called.  It’s nothing like the inclusive world of webcomics and self-representing artists that I enjoy.  It’s a world of Galleries and Collectors, waving a bone tantalisingly at attention-starved artists to see them beg and jump through hoops when ordered.  Ugh!

It was farcical to watch the judges send away the artists who demonstrated good, technical ability and promptly ask the rest to do life drawing!  I felt a mixture of amusement and annoyance in the first episode when the experts/judges started asking what art was.  Frankly they came across as not having a clue (confirming what I’d long suspected).  But ultimately Saatchi – a man of action, not words (or appearances) – decides, so we can ignore them.

On the subject of the ‘king-maker’ he has caught a bit of flack for doing this programme from critics.  They say he’s not as big as he used to be and is trying to revive past glories.  But critics like criticising.  I quite like the way Saatchi covertly looks at the artists’ works and simply chooses what he likes.  He leaves the furory and shit-flinging to everyone else.  Good for him.

I’m not going to recap the show, I’m just going to give my opinion on the final contestants.  I’ll try to be constructive rather than destructive if possible.

Sam, who never went to University and pursued art in his spare time has my admiration and my sympathy.  You don’t have to go to University to be an artist, but you do if you want these kinds of galleries to take you seriously.  It’s a hoop.  Sam is pitching to the wrong audience here.  Traditional painting and collage isn’t outlandish enough and selling it to a contemporary crowd is uphill work.  But there is still an audience for it.

Saad did go to University (I should know, I studied my BA alongside him at Brookes) and it shows.  He talks the talk and walks the walk.  He came across as most human in the show and it was refreshing to see someone who thought about his work before committing to it.  I liked his ghost huts.  His final piece was a little low-impact.

Ben seems to enjoy demonstrating scientific phenomena, and it even works half the time!  I’m afraid his technical skills aren’t up to his ambition, and he needs to distinguish Art from science a little bit more.

Suki has shown herself to have quite an eye and produced some stunning pieces (the birds video caught everyone’s attention – wow).  It seems to me that her white tower and empty attic was all about expectation and disappointment.  And, quite frankly, it did disappoint.  Success of failure I’m not sure, but I had expected more.  To be honest based on the previous three weeks I thought she would win.

I did guess the two finalists.  Their works in the exhibition stood out.  I love creating characters so Matt’s work appealed to me in that way (not to mention he worked incredibly hard) and Eugenie’s log on the fence was aesthetically quite beautiful.  It didn’t speak to me at all of the breaking down boundaries that the judges mentioned; I was taken by the form alone much like that piece she wheeled in on the first day.  I must say the rest of her works failed to impress me; she is definitely hit and miss.  Doubtlessly a bit of outside management would aid her, someone to say ‘This work – genius!  That work… not so good’ and she’ll fly.  Having won the show I think she’ll get that.

We only got a taste of the contestants work in this short, four-episode series, interspersed as it was with art history.  To be honest t was over before I really got interested!  Still I wish the artists well in the future and hope they stay true to their vision.

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