The Triumph of Painting?

Charles Saatchi set up the British advertising agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, the firm hired by the Conservative party in 1978 to catapult Margaret Thatcher to power. By the late 1980’s Saatchi was one of the most powerful figures in the art world, and he used his millions to create a personal stable of postmodernist young Turks, the so-called Brit Art movement. Saatchi spent the last few decades pronouncing unmade beds and pickled sharks as the epitome of high art, even founding The Saatchi Gallery in London to inflict his taste in conceptual art scams upon the world.

In the view of the Saatchi clique, painting was unfashionable and obsolete. His stranglehold over the contemporary art scene helped give rise to the absurd notion that “painting is dead.” But since 1999 this modern Medici has been challenged by a band of diehard painters known as the Stuckists, who insist that painting is very much alive and will one day reclaim its rightful place in the sun. It seems the unrelenting rhetoric of the Stuckists has influenced Mr. Saatchi – but he gives them not the slightest credit.

The impresario of conceptual art has apparently done a complete turnaround, and now pronounces The Triumph of Painting at his Saatchi Gallery. By the looks of the canvases displayed on the Saatchi webpage for the exhibit, there isn’t much triumph to be experienced. As a figurative painter myself, I suppose it is a good thing that painting is once again being heralded as essential and of great consequence – but I don’t much trust the messenger in this case.

As for the Stuckists, they will be holding a protest outside the Saatchi Gallery during the January 25th opening of The Triumph of Painting, bringing attention to the fact that Saatchi stole their ideas and is now himself, stuck.

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