Tag Archives: Earthroom

Saatchi Gallery: New Art from Germany and Richard Wilson

Over the Thanksgiving holiday,  I traveled to London to visit family and used the time to check out visual arts in London.   I was particularly excited to experience the Saatchi Gallery, which is owned by Charles Saatchi the legendary London based collector.    Known for acuqiring very contemporary works,  his large private museum exhibited GESAMTKUNSTWERK: NEW ART FROM GERMANY.  This was mildly disappointing to me, because I had traveled to Berlin in June and felt like I had a handle on what was new in Germany.  

If this is the zeigiest of young German artists,   the nation has a whole lot more to worry about than the Euro Zone crisis.  A large majority of the work was what I would like to classify as hipster art.  Large assembilages of neon shapes, ironic house hold applicances,  and objects with vauge political associations.  

For example,  the section of the exhibit devoted to Isa Genzken consisted of large sculptures made of found objets.   Her work toyed with the idea of the impact of art history on contemporary art and was heavily indepted to Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau. 

 Isa Genzken, Geschwister, 2004

The best part of the Saatchi Gallery was niether young nor German.  A wonderful piece by the English artist Richard Wilson filled the basement gallery space.   The entire floor of the gallery was filled with a pool of crude oil about 4 feet deep.  Akin to Walter De Maria’s Earthroom in New York,  visitors were not allowed to walk into the gallery,  but simply peer into the vast gallery space to observe the beauty of the oil.   The insallation 20:50,  was originally exhibited in 1987.  

Richard Wilson, 20:50

The surface of the oil was enticingly smooth.   It almost looked like a polished plastic surface.  The major aspect that altered the viewer to the media was the smell that emitted from the oil.   When looking at the installation it made me think of how important oil is to our global economy and politics,  but how rarely it is seen in large open quantities.  This was the first time I observed the physical qualities of oil, like the thickness of the liquid the smoothness of the surface. 

Richard Wilson, 20:50

Even though the artist created this installation in 1987,  it remains especially pertinient given the continuing environmental problems caused by oil in recent memory.   As a person very familiar with the Gulf Coast of Florida,  I tend to percieve oil as a destructive force instead of a beautiful liquid.  

This tension between the beauty, the environmental problems,  and the technological necessity of oil makes 20:50 the most impactful work of art I have encoutored in a long time.   If you make it to London,  GESAMTKUNSTWERK: NEW ART FROM GERMANYis up until April 2012.  

Richard Wilson, 20:50

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