February 19th, 2009

Maura Allen, “Six Ways,” Serigraph on Board, 2009

Charles Saatchi is about to present himself outside of the art world with his new reality television show “Saatchi’s Best of British.” It’s a new BBC series, which Saatchi will host, comparable to Heidi Klum’s “Project Runway.” Saatchi will appear on screen interacting with contestants but will never speak directly to the camera (read: he’s camera shy).

Artists who are accepted will attend Saatchi’s own art school, where it’s promised they will be tutored by top contemporary artists. The idea of the show is to discover the next top British talent, and perhaps the next group of “YBAs.” Most likely, the talent that is to be uncovered will be incredibly commercial, akin to artists Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin. But what’s wrong with a little hype and competition for the art word?

Finalists in the “Best of the British” will exhibit their work at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, after their private instruction in London. The winner of the competition? Well, who do you guess will exhibit him in his galleries? It’s a smart move for the former advertising scion, I have to say!

Saatchi says about the new show, “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.” The competition and resulting reality TV show will showcase all artistic genres including installation art, painting, digital media, sculpture, printmaking, and performance art.

I think it’s quite curious that Saatchi has decided to front this show, as he is notoriously camera shy. Personality, he has it in droves. Although one of the most active collectors/dealers/promoters in the art world, he is incredibly discerning and not just interested in the “new” for the sake of it. It should be said that Saatchi has an incredibly vast investment in the contemporary art world, and it behooves him to promote this world in order to stabilize the market and keep hold of the value of his own art investments. What better way than to be the “cover boy” for the emerging talent market? It’s possible that the show could uncover the next creative genius. However, I see a different outcome for this series: a reality-show-as-performance-art piece that speaks to the nature of contemporary art and the market itself.

Either way, a discussion and promotion of the art world and its artists is beneficial to us all. I hope that we in the US will be able to enjoy the show. Artists 18 and over, residing in the UK, can submit themselves at www.submityourart.com.