Is adman turned art-gallery kingmaker Charles Saatchi regretting the fact that in the early 90′s he dumped an assortment of paintings by David Salle–as well as his Schnabels, Clementes and so on?
Mr. Saatchi, who was once on a short list of collectors given first crack at Mr. Salle’s work, has recently purchased seven Salle paintings, despite his unceremonious dismissal of the artist several years ago after which he turned his attention to young British artists such as Damien Hirst. One of the works was a large Pop Art-inspired painting, Bigger Rack , which Mr. Saatchi commissioned. All seven paintings are for an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London, which opens April 30, called Young Americans 2 , unflatteringly characterized by the gallery as a show of artists who made their names in the 80′s but were still doing “interesting things” in the 90′s.
The buying spree began about a year ago, according to Jenny Blyth, curator for the Saatchi Gallery. But Mr. Saatchi has made most of his Salle purchases during the past several months, including important tapestry-style paintings of harlequins that were originally shown in the early 90′s at the uptown Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue. Those paintings are softer, kinder and gentler (and consequently less popular) than his cold, postmodern 1980′s paintings that combined naked women and 1950′s objects in a cruel, Nabokovian dreamscape.
“We are very, very excited about the new work that David has done,” said Ms. Blyth. “I think there has been so much focus on young British art, and it is very interesting for everybody over here to see what’s going on in the States, to contextualize it.” Mr. Saatchi was not available for comment.
The four other, lesser-known American artists in the show are Ashley Bickerton, Carroll Dunham, Terry Winters and Jessica Stockholder. The show runs until July 12.
Scharf Dashes Off Mr. Chow
Michael Chow, owner of Mr. Chow’s restaurants, has organized his personal art collection–primarily portraits of himself and his restaurant–into an exhibition to celebrate 30 years in the restaurant biz. More than 40 contemporary artists, ranging from LeRoy Neiman to Louise Nevelson, have added their stamp to Mr. Chow’s collection, most of which he insists he paid for, despite the longstanding rumor that the restaurateur bartered meals of prawns and squab for artwork. There’s a portrait Helmut Newton took from behind the restaurateur that is inscribed You Stick to the Noodles & I Take the Snaps ; a Warhol silk-screen that’s done in glitter; a Schnabel “plate painting” of Mr. Chow that includes a Mr. Chow dinner plate embedded among the broken crockery. The background of an Ed Ruscha portrait called Mr. Chow L.A . was originally done in soy sauce until the artist discovered that the salty condiment doesn’t dry.
But when the touring show was about to hit the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in SoHo, Kenny Scharf, the graffiti artist who has been enjoying something of a comeback in the late 90′s, asked Mr. Chow if he could be included.
“Kenny said, ‘I’d like to have a painting in that show, too,’” Mr. Chow told The Observer recently while strolling through the show.
Three days before the exhibition opened on April 4, Mr. Scharf’s painting arrived from Miami, where the artist lives and works. Mr. Chow sat for David Hockney three hours. He stripped to the waist for Mr. Schnabel. But Mr. Scharf had only the catalogue for the exhibition to go on for his airbrushed futuristic work that looks like an amalgam of a number of different portraits.
“Kenny looked at what other artists had done and added his own style,” Mr. Chow explained.
“Actually, I used Andy’s portrait,” Mr. Scharf explained over the phone from Miami, referring to the Warhol in the show. “I would have preferred to have taken a portrait of him. But I didn’t have time. I felt O.K. using Andy’s.”
Fun With Guns
“The reaction of some people is very negative. It’s almost as if [they think that guns] were made in hell and brought up to Europe to be distributed by the devil,” said photographer Theo Coulombe at the opening of his exhibition Who Invented the Assault Rifle Anyway? at the Margaret Bodell Gallery at 13 East Seventh Street.
Last year, Mr. Coulombe, a photographer who has documented a number of historic military re-enactments, and Jameson Ellis, a painter whose father was a military designer for the Army, went down to the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, Md., where they photographed the earliest assault rifles, dating from the late 1930′s in Germany and Russia, including an AK-47 from the mid-1950′s.
“I knew about this place and these guns,” said Mr. Ellis. “I said, ‘You do military stuff. You should do a piece on these guns.’ And he said, ‘Why don’t we both do it?’ Neither of us would have done it alone.” The photographs, which show the guns life-size in minute detail, are being shown in a series of light boxes at the Bodell Gallery through May 10.
“When I would talk to people about the gun project, they would roll their eyes,” Mr. Coulombe explained. “But the fact is that many of these things were made by individual designers and design teams, usually in direct competition. To be able to design a weapon that would enable one person to kill as many as possible in one setting was the goal. A lot of Jamie’s and my conversation had to do with the beauty of the design. Designed with love to be used for complete hatred, is how we looked at it. Our purpose was to simply show the actuality of these things in unapologetic detail.”
For Mr. Ellis, the project was more personal. “My background, via my father, is in guns. I guess I would have to say, yes, I am obsessed, but I think that guns are also problematic. I am not rabidly enthusiastic about the killing potential of guns … As physical objects, some guns are very beautiful. We tried carefully to not be apologetic or glorifying. It’s kind of embarrassing to be into this kind of thing. But I am glad that I got it off my chest and made an issue out of it in a way that is sort of beautiful.”
Added Mr. Coulombe: “We were apprehensive about the show because we didn’t want to come off as gun nuts. We are walking on a tricky wire.”