Home » Charles Saatchi Strikes Again: Best of British

Charles Saatchi Strikes Again: Best of British

After he launched Stuart, a social networking and portfolio showcase site for artists, and just when we were wondering what Charles Saatchi would get up to next, we’re entirely unsurprised by what he’s done. He’s launching a sort of Big Brother-slash-American Idol for emerging artists.

The world of young contemporary art(stardom) is already a circus by any measure, so why not declare it such with a reality television show?

Collector, ad man and UK celebrity Charles Saatchi. Image: artespain.com

Of course, it’s not the first art-related reality show. In 2006, New York dealer Jeffrey Deitch launched Artstar on Gallery HD, a specialty 24-hour channel devoted to the visual arts. Click HERE for the website and HERE for the New York Times’ take on the show.

Artstar participant Christian Dietkus. Image: Michael Wang/artforum.com and Artstar participant Abigail DeVille. Image: Brian Palmer/artforum.com. Where are they now?

But a specialty channel is one thing, and the BBC is quite another. Best of British, as the show is called, involves Saatchi, not only an art collector, but an advertising man and a full-blown British celebrity. The press release gushingly calls the “nationwide search to discover the next generation of artistic talent…an incredible opportunity for artists.”


(Just six) artists from all disciplines including installation, painting, digital media, sculpture, printmaking, performance art and others, will be selected to attend an Art School established uniquely for them where they will develop their work under the tutelage of some of the most innovative names in the art world today.

And, for one, the ultimate opportunity awaits as Saatchi has reserved a space for their work at his forthcoming exhibition at The Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.

Commenting on the series, Saatchi said: “I am looking forward to the prospect of finding undiscovered British talent. Anyone with a fresh creative approach should enter – because nobody knows where the next art star will emerge from.”

Sure we do, Mr. Saatchi. They’ll come from your show!

Why? Because large audiences will be watching with baited breath to see who gets kicked off first. Because at least one character will be ‘controversial’, guaranteeing media exposure, and will correspondingly become a household name.

Voila. Artstar.

Sorry to sound cynical, but is this really all that 21st century contemporary art is about? As the lines of art and advertising continue to blur, it makes us ask where the product is they’re selling.

(Although surely that’s just a matter of time.)

Having said that, some of VoCA favorite artists began their careers as Saatchi proteges – Damien Hirst and the excellent Tracey Emin, are two.

The fabulous Ms. Emin. Image: wikimedia.org

Still, there’s a line between encouraging young artists and manipulating their career like a marionette (See VoCA post HERE about the importance of puppets.) It’s a lot for a young artist to stand up to.

Despite efforts toward sincerity – a panel of respected and independent experts from the art world – we see what’s going on. A shortlist of 100 artists will be refined to 50 and then…wait for it…Saatchi will “pick the six he believes have the edge, raw talent and creativity to be developed and refined over three months at the specially created Art School.”

VoCA longs for the day when contemporary artists cease to be brand names, when art is once again valued for its depth, it’s magnitude, it’s profundity. Such art is out there, of course. But when will art audiences realize it?

Of Saatchi’s role in the series, Jacquie Hughes, BBC Independent Commissioning Executive, says: “Charles Saatchi’s involvement in this project is a great coup.”

No doubt.

But wait.

Then it becomes more interesting:

The six who make it to the Art School will train under the leadership of two course tutors. Their role is to expose the talent and potential of each of the students and guide them with their proposed projects towards the final selection.

Peter Dale, Executive Producer, comments: “The contemporary art world has famously been a controversial arena with some claiming the work is incomprehensible to the untrained eye, or created purely to shock and get headlines for the artist.

“For viewers who are passionate about this art form, Saatchi’s Best Of British offers a fascinating insight behind the scenes and into the minds that create the work, what inspires it and what it means.

“For others, it will be a journey of discovery as the series demystifies the subject and makes the art more accessible.

So the show aims to educate the public, to demystify contemporary audiences in the most contemporary way, by delivering it to them.

Is this new reality tv show for artists a good idea or not? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

2 Responses to “Charles Saatchi Strikes Again: Best of British”

  1. AK_Alias says:

    The British art world seems to be based on the star system. There are a handful of very famous star artists, and there are collectors with gobs of money, who make gobs of money hyping the artists they have invested in.

    Overall, it seems an art world that is superficial, sensationalistic, and over-marketed. It seems to have much in common with the world of pop music, so The Saatchi Show is not such a surprise. The tabloids scream “it’s not art!” or “My kid could do that!” at every turn over art that might have been shocking in 1917. A lot of the art produced by stars seems derivative. People talk about ‘conceptualism’ a lot, by which they seem to mean ‘modern,’ apparently. After nearly 100 years, it seems Modernism is still an edgy practice.

    There is undoubtedly a world of artists producing great stuff, but mostly what we see is ‘The Art World’ which mirrors the rest of society: hype, greed, fraud, corruption, and decline. So – not much different than the worlds of politics and business.

    Notably, the BBC just launched a new reality TV show were people get to pretend to be stock market traders, making big bucks for making decisions that would be more profitably made by throwing darts or some other random process.


  2. What a great idea. I’d love to participate in a show like this. I know I have mind for it. Many so called true artists would put the idea of a show down but deep down they wish they’ d be celebrated for their ART.

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