Saatchi Gallery
Museum of Contemporary Art, London: History, Exhibitions, Collection Highlights.

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Art Work at Gallery

Zhang Xiaogang (b.1958) One of
several top contemporary artists
from China, who featured in the
show "The Revolution Continues:
New Art from China" at the Saatchi

Saatchi Gallery, London


Origins & History


Founded in 1985 by the Iraqi-born UK businessman and philanthropist Charles Saatchi, one of the great contemporary art collectors, the gallery attracts more than one million visitors a year, and has become one of the best galleries of contemporary art in Europe. It is the only free-entry contemporary art museum of its size, in the world. Now located in the former HQ of the Duke of York on the King's Road, Chelsea, London, the gallery hosts regular temporary exhibitions, and is home to the Saatchi collection of contemporary art. Exhibitions have showcased numerous contemporary art movements such as Minimalism, Neo-Expressionism, and Britart by Young British Artists, as well as avant-garde art from China, while featured artists have included outstanding figures like Andy Warhol (1928-87), Phillip Guston (1913-80), Richard Serra (b.1939), Anselm Kiefer (b.1945), Gerhard Richter (b.1932), Donald Judd (1928-94), Damien Hirst (b.1965), and Tracey Emin (b.1963), among many others. Already established as one of the top art museums in Europe, in 2010, Saatchi announced that the gallery would be donated to the state, becoming the Museum of Contemporary Art for London.

Before visiting the Saatchi Gallery,
find out our to judge a painting, see:
Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art.

Greatest Art Museums in America.

For details of any important
shows being staged at the
Saatchi Gallery,
see: Art News Headlines.


Mission and Artistic Philosophy

The Saatchi Gallery focuses on hypermodern works of installation art, various forms of sculptural junk art, lens-based works including video art, as well as feminist art and contemporary painting and assemblage. Its aim is to show the sort of postmodernist art that would not otherwise be seen in more traditional institutions such as the Tate Modern. According to Rebecca Wilson, Head of Development, "The gallery's guiding principle is to show what is being made now, the most interesting artists of today. It's about drawing people's attentions to someone who might be tomorrow's Damien Hirst." Given the gallery's high visitor attendance figures, along with Saatchi's continuing ability to source interesting works of art, it is impossible to deny that it has become one of Britain's best art museums as well as one of its leading cultural institutions.


Origins and History

The Saatchi Gallery opened in 1985 in St John's Wood, London in a 30,000 square foot ex-paint factory. Initially resembling a high security prison with a steel front door, and only open at weekends, the gallery could display only a small part of Saatchi's permanent collection, which at the time focused on established American contemporary painters and sculptors.


1985 - Early Exhibitions
Featured minimalist sculptors Donald Judd (1928-1994), Dan Flavin (1933-1996), Sol LeWitt (b.1928), and Carl Andre (b.1935); American abstract painters Brice Marden (b.1938), Cy Twombly (1928-2011), Robert Ryman (b.1930), and Frank Stella (b.1936), and Andy Warhol's Pop Art (1960-73).
1986 - One-Man Shows
German neo-expressionism painter Anselm Kiefer; American minimalism sculptor Richard Serra.
1987 - New York Art Now Show
First UK showings for American artists Jeff Koons, Robert Gober, Ashley Bickerton, Carroll Dunham and Phillip Taaffe.
1988-1991 - First UK Exhibitions for Various Artists
Leon Golub, Phillip Guston, Sigmar Polke, Bruce Nauman, Richard Artschwager, Cindy Sherman.
1989-1990 - School of London
A series of shows of works by major School of London artists like Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach, and Howard Hodgkin.
1991 - Installation
The Saatchi gallery instals 20:50, a major work by British installation artist Richard Wilson. Comprising a room entirely filled with oil (sounds weird, but actually it's brilliant), it becomes a permanent installation at the Boundary Road venue. It is now set up in the basement of the King's Road premises.

1991 - Saatchi Sells US Art To Fund New YBA Collection
The gallery disposes of much of its American contemporary artworks, in order to finance investment in Britart.
1992-96 - Young British Artists I-VI
Six exhibitions of Britart featuring works by Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn, Rachel Whiteread, Gavin Turk, Glenn Brown, Sarah Lucas, Jenny Saville, Gary Hume, Tracey Emin, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Douglas Gordon, Marcus Harvey, Gillian Wearing, Chris Ofili, and others. These shows coined the terms "Young British Artists" and "YBAs".
1998 - Neurotic Realism Exhibition
Includes budding young artists like: Cecily Brown, Martin Maloney, Ron Mueck, Noble and Webster, Chantal Joffe, and Michael Raedecker.
1999 - Gallery Donation
Saatchi gives 100 artworks to the Arts Council of Great Britain Collection, which lends works to museums and galleries around the UK.
2000 - Gallery Donation
Saatchi donates 40 works by prominent Young British Artists to eight museums across Britain.
2000 - Ant Noises Exhibition
This show, whose title is an anagram of "Sensation", featured work by Lucas, Saville, Whiteread, the Chapmans, Turk, Emin, Chris Ofili and Hirst.
2000 - Series of One-Person Shows
Featured artists include: photorealist Duane Hanson, Pop-artist Alex Katz and Boris Mikhailov.
2000 - Young Americans and Eurovision Exhibitions
Showcase artists like Charles Ray, Richard Prince, Rineke Dijkstra, Lisa Yuskavage, Andreas Gursky, John Currin, and Elizabeth Peyton.
2001 - I am a Camera Exhibition
Featuring a range of fine art photography and other lens-based art.
See also: Is Photography Art?
2002 - Gallery Donation
Saatchi gives 50 artworks to the Paintings in Hospitals program.
2003 - Saatchi Gallery Moves to County Hall
Gallery relocates to a 40,000 square foot exhibition venue in the former GLC HQ on the South Bank. The opening show is a Damien Hirst retrospective, from which the latter disassociates himself, as well as works by other YBAs such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, as well as work by established artists Patrick Caulfield, John Bratby and Paula Rego.
2004 - Momart Fire
A fire in the Saatchi Gallery's Momart warehouse destroys a large number of works from the collection, including Emin's major work of conceptual art Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–95 (1995), and the Chapman brothers' work Hell (1999-2000). Charles Saatchi is said to be distraught at the loss, estimated at £50 million.
2004 - New Blood Exhibition
A show of relatively unknown artists working in a variety of media, including Stella Vine. Attracted a critical reception.
2004 - Saatchi Sells YBA Works
Saatchi disposes of a large number of works from his collection of Young British Artists, including: Hirst's iconic The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) for almost £7 million (bought for £50,000); Mark Quinn's Self (1991) for £1.5 million (bought for £13,000); and many others.
2005 - The Triumph of Painting (3-part series)
Featured some outstanding late 20th century paintings, by a number of European painters such as Jorg Immendorff, Peter Doig, Martin Kippenberger, and Luc Tuymans, as well as younger painters from America, Germany and Britain.
2006 - Saatchi Gallery Website
An open-access section is launched on the Gallery website, permitting artists to upload biographies plus images of paintings/sculptures onto personal pages. A section for art students - featuring a daily art magazine, a forum, and video blogs - was also started. In 2007, new sections on museums and art colleges followed. According to recent statistics, the website has more than 100,000 artist profiles and receives almost 500 million hits a week.
2006 - USA Today: New American Art
This show travels to the Royal Academy, in 2006, and to The State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg, in 2007.
2008 - Saatchi Gallery Moves to Chelsea
The gallery opens at its present 70,000 square foot site in the Duke of York's HQ, Kings Road. It is one of the largest showcases of contemporary art in the world. The inaugural exhibition is entitled: The Revolution Continues: New Art from China. Focusing on issues surrounding China's Cultural Revolution and also more contemporary affairs, the show features works of painting, conceptualism, sculpture and installation art by 24 Chinese artists, including Li Songsong, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhang Huan, Zhang Haiying, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, several of whom were among the Top 20 Contemporary Artists of 2008. Critics praise the show: Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times writes: "Saatchi's collection of Chinese art is one that the Tate Modern would kill for, and could not begin to afford".

For information about exhibitions of avant-garde art, in London and elsewhere, please see: Best Contemporary Art Festivals.


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• For a completely different arts venue in London, see: The British Museum.

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