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Has Saatchi lost his Midas touch?

Razia Iqbal | 18:14 UK time, Tuesday, 7 October 2008

saatchi1_ap.jpgHe is so elusive that it's hard to tell Charles Saatchi has been away from the contemporary art scene for a while.

As preparations were being made for the grand opening of his vast new Saatchi gallery in London, he scampered off at the first signs of any cameras, yet he was overheard saying he hoped they could convey what he was trying to do at the gallery. If only he would explain himself, but he is consistently reluctant to give interviews.

The space at the former Duke of York's headquarters in Kings Road is stunning - room after room, light, airy and beautifully proportioned. But unlike the way Saatchi changed contemporary art in the 1980s and 1990s, the art he has chosen to showcase in his swanky new gallery, is less impressive. Has the man with the Midas touch lost it?

That he has chosen Chinese art to launch his gallery is bold, but quite a lot of it falls flat. My favourite is the installation by two young artists, called Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, entitled Old People's home. Thirteen life-size sculptures of elderly world leaders slumped in electric wheelchairs cruise eerily through the room and occasionally bump into each other, or you, if you're focussed on one and another is heading your way. They are witty and brilliantly conceived.

Saatchi has been buying and investing in Chinese art for several years now and his interest has ratcheted auction prices, but his selection here is erratic and uneven. Some feels like its just there for shock value. He's still got loads of money, and the gallery is stunning and free to get into, but the art inside, bar a few exceptions, is unlikely to become the next big thing.


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