To look back at the Saatchi Gallery’s achievements over the past 30 years is to see a collection of lasting importance built through an unswerving focus on fresh talent. The exchange between New York and London has been vital to the Saatchi Gallery’s success — a pre-eminence articulated in the fact that it has hosted 15 of the 20 most-visited museum exhibitions in London over the last five years.
Charles Saatchi began collecting American contemporary art in the 1970s, and the Boundary Road location’s maiden exhibition in 1985 represented the first UK show for both Cy Twombly and Brice Marden. The 1987-88 exhibition New York Art Now, featuring Jeff Koons, Robert Gober, Peter Halley, Haim Steinbach, Philip Taaffe and Caroll Dunham, had an immeasurable impact on British art through its influence on the Young British Artists — many of whom would themselves be launched to stardom by Saatchi just a few years later.
The Saatchi Gallery became the first to show a host of artists who are now household names, from Bruce Nauman to Damien Hirst
The Saatchi Gallery was also the first to show a host of artists who are now household names, including Bruce Nauman, Andreas Gursky, Sigmar Polke, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst — whose formaldehyde-pickled shark, shown at Saatchi in 1992, remains the defining icon of Brit Art.
It is fitting, therefore, that this vibrant international conversation is reflected in the double grouping of works in the special Handpicked... auction, featuring the best emerging work from around the globe. Proceeds from the auctions at Christie’s will support the ongoing policy of free admission to all gallery-curated exhibitions, and its free education programme.
Below, our two heads of sale, Zoë Klemme (London) and Noah Davis (New York), offer 50 words each on their personal highlights from the 50 works they’ll be offering in their respective locations.
Zoë Klemme: Anne Hardy’s disquieting photographs invite the viewer to step into her invented spaces, which she creates from found and second-hand items. These unnerving interiors, which contain traces of human presence, originate in a performative process, with the resulting ‘scenes’ only ever being observed through the mediating gaze of the camera.
Zoë Klemme: Sigrid Holmwood’s ‘hippie ideas’ and nostalgic aesthetic stem from her desire to get to the heart of paint as a historic substance. She trawls ancient archives and internet forums, and consults conservationists, chemists, and herbalists to revive the lost recipes of paint-making, concocting her pigments and glazes entirely from scratch.
Zoë Klemme: Capper demolishes the boundaries between sculpture and engineering, making machines with a life of their own. Built from scratch, the crab-like Nipper (Long Reach) is imbued with a lively anthropomorphism. Originating in what he calls ‘dream drawings’, his works derive from his collaboration with a chain of industrial suppliers.
Noah Davis: Curtain is a stunningly rich example of Saccoccio’s large-scale abstractions. In these works, the artist exploits the mechanics of gravity and the physical properties of paint to create emotive and often heroic compositions, allowing pools of paint to expand, overlap and dissolve into intricate webs and thick fields of colour.
Noah Davis: This work belongs to Rafman’s The Nine Eyes of Google Street View project, in which he scours the gigantic database of images captured by Google Maps for fleeting moments of interest — surreal, poetically beautiful or humorous. With this galloping reindeer, he underscores the tenuous relationship between man, technology and nature.
Noah Davis: La La Land displays the artist’s penchant for unexpected art historical references: looming beyond the windows of the lush, cacophonous room — peppered with clues, cues and the evidence of self-indulgent debauchery — is Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents (circa 1611-1612). Shara Hughes will be included in this year's Whitney Biennial.