Pace-setter Charles Saatchi moves out Britart, moves in paintings

Doig, Kippenberger, Dumas, Tuymans, and Immendorf take centre stage at the collector’s gallery


A group of works by Damien Hirst, including his famous tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde and “Hymn”, his monumental bronze anatomical model, as well as pieces by fellow British artists Tracey Emin, Jenny Saville, Sarah Lucas, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Marc Quinn, and Chris Ofili, among many others, are to be removed from display at the Saatchi Gallery. In their place comes an exhibition, “The triumph of painting” which opens in January 2005 to mark the 20th anniversary of the gallery.

The new show is devoted to the work of five painters, Peter Doig, Luc Tuymans, Marlene Dumas, Jörg Immendorf, and Martin Kippenberger, described by Charles Saatchi as “key European artists”. Mr Saatchi hopes to fill almost the entire space of his gallery at County Hall on the South Bank with paintings by these five artists.

The works are to be displayed against white walls which have been installed in all of the gallery’s Queen Anne, wood-panelled rooms.

The choice of these particular artists, all highly regarded in the international art world—a retrospective devoted to the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans moves from Tate Modern in London to K21 in Düsseldorf this month, while a solo show of work by the late German artist Martin Kippenberger, drawn from the collection of publisher Benedikt Taschen, opens at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid (see p.32)—represents a significant shift in the buying patterns of Mr Saatchi, who usually invests in relatively unknown artists by buying their work en masse.

Sometimes the exercise has worked, most notably with the likes of Hirst, Emin et al—the so-called Young British Artists (YBAs, whom Mr Saatchi cleverly packaged into a movement and then displayed in a travelling 1997 exhibition, “Sensation”, which was seen in London, Berlin, and New York.

Sometimes it has not: the gallery’s last show of work by unknown artists earlier this year, “New blood”, was savaged by the British press.

Yet those who believe Mr Saatchi has lost his appetite for shrewd investment in the work of unknown artists should think again. Speaking to The Art Newspaper, he said that the work of the five painters would remain on display for three to four months and would be followed by an exhibition of paintings by younger artists, including Daniel Richter and Cecily Brown, and then by the work of lesser-known “emerging” painters. The succession of three shows will see the Saatchi Gallery entirely devoted to the display of paintings for the duration of 2005.

Mr Saatchi told The Art Newspaper that his collection of work by the YBAs will remain in storage until 2006. He then intends to put it back on public view.

Meanwhile, Tate Britain has announced the purchase of eight works by one of the original YBAs whom Mr Saatchi launched to art world stardom, Tracey Emin. They are on view in a room of their own and will remain on display until at least spring 2005.