New Sensations and The Future Can Wait at the Saatchi Gallery
Victoria House in Holborn was the setting for the fifth year of New Sensations – a promotional showcase of 20 new artists by the Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4. Complementing this in the same cavernous labyrinth was The Future Can Wait – providing yet more artists for your figurative buck (free livin’). In total there were 55 artists being showcased across 22,000 square feet, which is allegedly the biggest show taking place in Frieze week. We went along to the preview to check it out.
A surprising amount of painting was included in The New Sensations work that we were met by. I was particularly struck by the dripping fluorescent colours in Jin Han Lee’s work, and the scope of Rafal Topolewski’s work, one of the four 2012 finalists. His work ranged from large Rothko-esque piece ‘Plane’, to the playful ‘£6.08’ – a series of small Oil portraits of flowers on MDF boards stacked up, that seems to encapsulate the anxiety of the contemporary painter.
Natasha Peel’s Perspex work dominated the floor. Large sculptures curved fluidly around plain box-like objects. Peel’s work explores the awkward appropriation of the avant-garde by corporate brands, which became slightly awkward as we walked into an area of Absolut Vodka sponsored ‘Art’ for people to bid on. Although nice enough, it sullied the atmosphere of head-tilting and chin-stroking, as those in attendance realised the inappropriate nature of continuing this form of behaviour. Near to this however was a film that seemed to move between out of shape men in pre-swimming pool rituals, and frogs, possibly mating. At this point it’s probably important to stress my unfamiliarity with the anatomy of amphibians – contemplation was resumed.
Back in to the main room then. In my absence, a different tone had taken hold. Men carrying trays of drinks were now being cautiously hustled by the legions of thirsty damned. There are many double doors lacing the metallic walls. The baiting drunks have established the entrance door for champagne. A man comes out with a full tray and is instantly set upon by a crowd. Hardly four steps, and he returns back to the mysterious netherworld. Then it occurs to me – were they really so cynical as to stalk the movements of the free booze men, or was it coincidence? More to the point, if I was so attentive, why hadn’t I been on hand to take advantage? Everyone was watching each other, trying to remain cool and collected. My role had slipped into a kind of voyeurism.
The size of the space was such that up to this point I thought I had seen all the art. I then discovered The Future Can Wait exhibition, which was refreshing thirsty refugees with Jeramiah Weed. The caterers, it seemed, would live to see another day. I walked past a large John Stark painting, being observed by two gregarious gentlemen, one of whom euphemistically spluttered the words, ”beautiful finish” like an emotional sea captain as I walked by. He was drinking what appeared to be an espresso Martini. Many people appeared to be drinking these.
The Future Can Wait featured a lot more contemporary installation than New Sensations. I then found an iron hand holding some sand. Suddenly it moved – dropping the sand, before rotating, lowering, and picking up more sand. It impressed me, as I wondered whether the opening Socrates scene in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure provided any inspiration. Dust. Wind. Dude.
There was also work by Josephine King shown previously at the consistently excellent Riflemaker gallery near Oxford Circus. The painting here – ‘Zero Equality’ – features a morose lady surrounded by bloody flowers and surrounded by a banner reading ‘HE TOOK HIS ORGASM, HE FORGOT MINE’. It’s a good painting. Also harrowing but great is the work of Eric Maniguad, and his Guelle Cassee series, which I can’t really do justice to in the latter half of a sentence.
I recognised a lone figure, a middle aged woman, who I had volunteered with a few weeks ago for an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Standing alone, she looks pensively from side to side glancing passively between art works, at least ten in fewer than three seconds. A life dedicated to channelling the pinnacle of expression (or irony and ketamine at the very least), and this is your reward, artists. To her defence, there was a lot of art.
I was then alarmed by a statue by Marcus Harvey called Mr Punch, which wouldn’t look out of place in Jimmy Saville’s garden. I was becoming overwhelmed, and decided to leave. The next day, I heard that somebody had knocked over one of the Natasha Peel sculptures, which I was gutted to have missed (hope it’s OK, guys).
Due to the ephemeral nature of Frieze week, this is only running until Monday night at 9pm. I highly recommend you visit.
Oct 11-17 Victoria House, Southampton Row, London, WC1B 4DA
Words: Rob Greer
Photos: Joshua Eiffel