Published  26/04/2004

BritArt, how we have loved you

The nation's love affair with BritArt was hyped up as recently as last February, when Sotheby's sold 14.7 million-worth of the genre. Can it really be true that, 'Britain's love affair with BritArt meant that a new generation of young and affluent art lovers were boosting interest in contemporary art, which was probably more sought after than it had ever been?'

True, a pot by Grayson Perry sold for 36,000 (estimate - 15,000). Charles Saatchi steams on regardless, more recently acquiring works by Tim Noble, Sue Webster, Alastair Mackie, and Stella Vine. But then he can hardly be called young, even though he is certainly 'affluent'.

And now we can witness in 'New Blood' (at the Saatchi Gallery until 4 July 2004) works acquired by Saatchi, which include Dr Lakra (a Mexican Tattoo Artist) James Jessop (a Group 4 Security Guard) and Stella (sadly, not a Performance Artist). Also included are German, American and Israeli artists, with Gavin Turk and Yasumasa Morimura. From Damien Hirst comes 'The Cancer Chronicles' where a black hole of moribund flies enables us to reflect on the nature of mortality.

It is said that Saatchi does not believe it is his role to censor art itself, and this is clearly evident in the liberal abandonment of all known criteria for the selection of contemporary works. But now that we are moving into the realm of EurArt, GlobArt, we could perhaps hope to find less of what Philip Dodd, the enlightened Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, has referred to as a gallery of 1990s museum art. All over Britain, there are new private collections of this 1990s art. The sad reality is that all this must anticipate a collapse of the rigged value of such works, in or out of the saleroom.

'Anybody outside Britain will look into our cultural life and say that they envy it. We are a country which is quick to concede defeat. We are comfortable always with identifying the end of an industry or the end of an era … There is actually a lot of fantastic stuff going on here.'

No, friends, not the art industry being described here, but the UK film industry. Anthony Minghella, you are right with this appraisal. But it’s a different pricing structure, film from art.

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