➤ A second squadron of high-octane British artists zaps the Saatchi space

❚ TODAY’S NEW STARS OF BRITISH ART are quieter and more thoughtful than the YBAs in the Sensation survey of 1997 — this was the progressive critic Waldemar Januszczak’s verdict in June on Part 1 of the millionaire Charles Saatchi’s latest survey when it opened in London. “A rousing exhibition, Saatchi’s best for many a year,” he wrote. Part 2 of Newspeak, British Art Now, opens to the public today and it too proves to be another sprawl of hits and misses, yet the hits do unsettle and send a tingle through your aesthetic nerve. Shapersofthe80s has chosen a dozen of the more hyper-intense images for the gallery below.

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For the sake of balance, let’s give the caustic old traditionalist his turn. Even after he “walked sickened away” from the 1997 Sensation show, Brian Sewell has actually conceded that “Saatchi did more for British contemporary art and the economic blossoming that it engendered than all the Tates, the Arts and British Councils put together.” Yet faced with the 2010 selection, he pronounced Newspeak Part 1 to be “Oldspeak rather than new, and we have seen it all before… The Newspeak group are hardly new kids on the block, for all have substantial exhibition histories, many of them international, yet very few have reached further than the low levels of skill, aptitude and common sense demonstrated every year in exhibitions mounted by students in the benighted art schools up and down the land.”

He concluded: “Newspeak is at best cliché, kitsch and the ironic subversion that is the joke so often played by the post-postmodernist… One might reasonably conclude that British art is dead.”

Shapersofthe80s sides with Januszczak in finding more experiment and curiosity than indifference at Newspeak. Januszczak identifies the Saatchi touch thus:
“What Saatchi has always done, and what Tate Modern can never do, is back hunches with cash. The Tate doesn’t have any FU money. Its investments are our investments. Which is why it remains so chronically and conspicuously image-conscious. When it comes to rewriting agendas, the Tate is a scaredy-cat. Saatchi, on the other hand, is not.”

Of Newspeak, he concludes: “[The] clash of new and old, scientific and irrational, experiment and belief, is typical of the show’s prevailing mood.”

❏ Newspeak: British Art Now — Part 2 runs at the splendid new Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, October 27-Jan 16, 2011
➢ “One might reasonably conclude that British art is dead” — Brian Sewell’s review of Part 1 in the Evening Standard, June 3, 2010
➢ “Britain still has talent” — Waldemar Januszczak’s review from the Sunday Times Culture, June 6, 2010


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