Charles Saatchi plans an alternative Turner prize, Blue Gallery opens again, and gazumping in Vauxhall

What's going on in London: Art on the move


Will Saatchi trump the Turner?

Not only is London quivering in anticipation of his new gallery opening in the former County Hall in mid-April, but the capital is also reverberating with rumours that scallywag Saatchi is planning to launch an alternative Turner Prize in the wake of his recent uncomplimentary comments about the award which he presented in 1994 with a memorable speech that speculated as to what Britain’s artists could be putting in their porridge. The jetsam grapevine suggests that Mr Saatchi will be upping the ante on the Tate by offering £40,000, double the Turner prize, but, although the Saatchi camp are keeping schtum about details, one of his cohorts admits that “he wants to do something fun when the new gallery is set up.” Whether Channel 4, whose sponsorship of the Turner Prize is up for reassessment after this year, will be involved remains to be seen.

Richard Wilson keeps his irons in the fire

At the same time as he works out the logistics of re-installing his famous oil installation “20:50”, one of the Saatchi Collection’s most enduringly popular works, in the very different environs of a wooden panelled room in the former County Hall, Richard Wilson has also opened “Irons in the fire”, a major survey of his project drawings and maquettes in the very appropriate surroundings of a former Hydraulic Power Station in Wapping. Seeing nearly two decades of Wilson’s often epic architectural interventions and re-arrangings in this ruggedly cavernous space makes one think how appropriate an artist he would be for that other expansive former power station on the other side of the river, where surely he, if anyone, has all the qualifications—both aesthetic and technical —needed to grapple with the challenges of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall?

Blue Gallery recovers from architectural doldrums

Many of us have paid the price of an over-zealous architectural vision, so can sympathise with the directors of Blue Gallery who, last year, were forced to close their Sutton Street gallery and carry out some hasty demolition work just two days after the opening party had unveiled a gallery described by Blue’s Giles Baker-Smith as resembling “a Greek taverna” (with the added feature of convex walls, upon which nothing could be hung...) This month, however, they have put all that behind them by moving 100 metres further along Sutton Street into new premises in which any architectural input has been restricted to a spot of technical drawing. “We’ve learned our lesson about letting an architect have flights of fancy,” declares Mr Baker-Smith, who was keen to emphasise that the previous architect, Mark Goulthorpe of Decoi (perhaps the practice name should have been a clue), has had no part in the new space. Although Blue are inaugurating their new premises with a show of paintings by Paul Riley, the gallery continues what has turned into a profitable sideline of showing and selling NASA’s images from the Hubble telescope—a pursuit described by Mr Baker-Smith as a “hobby that’s taken off.”

Gloomy climate does not deter investment in London

Never mind that the stock market seems forever tilted downwards and that we are hovering on the brink of war; top galleries are still flocking to set up shop in London. This month Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers join ranks with the UK’s Simon Lee (formerly of 11 Duke Street, Gimpel Fils and Anthony D’Offay) to open Sprüth, Magers Lee at 12 Berkeley Street with a show of Donald Judd. Hauser-Wirth are currently embroiled in the process of negotiating a West End space (jetsam spies suggest that it is the Lutyens-designed former Barclays Bank building near St James’ Piccadilly). Expansion plans are also afoot among those already settled in London. Timothy Taylor is busy gutting and refurbishing Anthony D’Offay’s two former spaces on 24 Dering Street—a major exercise that he is carrying out with the help of architect Eric Parry—with a view to open in May, while Gagosian are also in the throes of searching for a larger new space, undeterred by a recent gazumping from Damien Hirst who got in first to buy a former scene painting workshop in Vauxhall to house his own spot and spin painting factory, having cheekily borrowed the money from Gagosian in order to make the purchase...

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Art on the move'