BRIC @ the Saatchi Gallery
JD headed down to the Saatchi Gallery to see what it made of BRIC…
Two years has passed from when the Tate Modern’s walls were layered with the bright colours of 6 graffiti artists/collectives, with Brazil’s Nunca and the duo Os Gêmeos playing their part. The stage, or canvas, couldn’t have been much larger. And this April, the artistic prowess of Brazil has been invited for another chance to shine, as it takes its place alongside Russia, India and China, comprising the BRIC nations, in a project realised by Phillips de Pury & Company.
The current exhibition and auction of the same name, taking place at the opulent setting of the Saatchi Gallery, runs for a week and culminates in two days of auction (23rd & 24th April), and whilst it draws inspiration from the acronym usually understood for the economic prowess and booming of the 4 countries, the BRIC exhibition and auction sets out to showcase their fast emerging cultural and artistic output, and as outlined by Simon de Pury himself, the aim is to capitalise on this momentum, and hail the shift from westernisation to the easternisation of art, spanning its creation, sale and purchase.
The gallery space is vast and the amount of work on show is abundant, the catalogue a hand/armful in itself and the estimated bidding prices will raise eyebrows too, naturally. And this will prove an interesting checkup on the current state of the confidence of the art world, which has suffered dips and troughs in tandem with the economic crisis, with many fine pieces failing to raise a single bid in some instances, let alone come near their asking price, but De Pury remains as optimistic as ever that this show will be a success.
Amid the other nations’ artwork, Brazil has a modest collection to represent it, and space and attention is hard-fought for, with a piece each from Os Gêmeos, Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica sharing a room with a rather dazzling set of shiny silver dogs with red digital timers on them, and words scrolling along at their feet, aptly named Countdown. Yet the three pieces are estimated to sell well, with the upper range pitched at £35k, £220k and £80k respectively.
Strolling around the many rooms of BRIC you’ll find all sorts of mediums and scales of work, with striking large sculptures and statues such as Shi Jianmin’s Love me do, a huge figure of a boy with what look like houses for shoes. There is heavy referencing to the USA in places, with Xue Song’s Twin Towers, a triptych painted flag depicting the attack, with cut up images and newspaper cuttings in English and Chinese. And there’s plenty of room for the tongue-in-cheek, with Frank Kozile’s Mao bearing Mickey Mouse-esque ears, Alexander Kosolapov’s Molotov Cocktail of a bomb using a Coke bottle, and a delicate portrait of Roman Abramovich holding gently onto a Silver Birch Tree.
Speaking of which, aside from the various lashings out at drinks brands and capitalistic values (such as by Wang Quingsong, with coke cans as weapons, or the evocative compositions Last Riot and The Bridge by AES+F, with somewhat biblical or classical montaged scenes of military-clad youths), there’s a great deal of sensitivity and sentimentality explored, from riverside life photographed in India, a Mumbai shanty town which could easily be a Brazilian favela, to the societal and often personal, and undeniably iconic portraits by Alexander Rodchenko.
At the very top of the gallery there’s a room dominated by works of Brazilian artists, with some sofas and chairs in the centre by the likes of Celina Decoracoes and Sergio Rodrigues, a carrara marble sculpture by Sergio Camargo, Mulatas by Emiliano di Cavalcanti (estimated to reach between £220-280k), and woodwork with stained glass by Joaquim Tenreiro. And helping you to not accidentally take a seat on one such piece of artwork, there photos from Cuba by Miguel Rio Branco, an image depicting dust by Vik Muniz, and the large atmospheric photos of Caio Reisenitz, close to a kinetic image by Bruno Barbey of black bodies leaping into a river, and works in coloured pencil and ink by Jose Leonilson.
But a real gem amid the masses here, thriving in itself as well as in the throng of BRIC representatives, is the powerful black & white photography of Sebastiao Salgado, with seathing, sweaty, dirty bodies of workers scaling ladders, somewhat like wilderbeasts braving a river, climbing out of the gold mines of Serra Pelada in which they worked, and moody shots of the Amazon and Xingu rivers. Historical images, they’re ironically at the more affordable end of the scale, deemed to be due to fetch between £2.5-4.5k each.
Seminal works and a seminal exhibition, the success of which has everything to play for and prove when all the works go under the hammer between Friday and Saturday, 23rd & 24th April, BRIC offers a comprehensive preview of what the world can anticipate a great deal more of, bringing you the here and now of tomorrow’s rising art and economic world powers.
By Milo Steelefox