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Saatchi shapes the future of sculpture

June 2, 2011

Anne Blood reviews Charles Saatchi’s latest attempts at taste-making in a show devoted to contemporary sculpture.

This summer the Saatchi Gallery is hosting another of its exhibitions devoted entirely to sculpture. While a far cry from Charles Saatchi’s sensationalist and seminal exhibitions of the 1990s, with The Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture it is business-as-usual for Saatchi as he hedges his bets on new work and emerging talent in the medium of sculpture. As the title of the show, taken from H.G. Well’s 1936 novel, proclaims, this exhibition is Saatchi’s prediction of (and means of defining) the forthcoming standard of taste in contemporary sculpture – literally the ‘shape’ of things to come.


While the show in many ways lacks curatorial direction, the inclusion of work by only 20 artists (21 if you include Richard Wilson’s 1987 work 20:50, the only permanent installation at the gallery) makes it far from cluttered and distracting. The luxury provided by the vast rooms spread over three levels is exploited to great effect, with often as few as two works on show in a single room. Each piece of sculpture is given ample room to breathe, and the spectator in turn has space to move around the work, creating a freeing and activated space of engagement.

The role call of artists on display includes established names such as John Baldessari, Roger Hiorns and Rebecca Warren as well as younger, emerging sculptors: Berlinde De Bruyckere, for instance, who has at least four works on display. These artists are mixed together in the gallery space with a complete disregard for hierarchy. The walls are also left completely blank, forcing the viewer to rely solely on the printed gallery guide to link artists and titles to works. While the constant flipping through the guide is frustrating, the curator’s attempt to allow the pieces of sculpture to speak for themselves within the gallery space is laudable.

Emerging from this spacious, unadulterated display are Dirk Skreber’s cars crushed around metal poles in Untitled (Crash 1) and Untitled (Crash 2) (2009), Matthew Brannon’s eerily white, showroom-esque interior Nevertheless (2009), neatly filled with mismatched objects, and Martin Honert’s disturbingly life-like Riesen (Giants) (2007), all of which stand out amongst the other works. While the variation in media used is staggering – ranging from traditional materials such as clay, wood and stone to various types of foam, horse hair and found commercial objects – homages to Dan Flavin’s use of neon abound, present in works such as Brick Lane Remix I (2003) by David Batchelor, Untitled  (2006) by Anslem Reyle and Björn Dahlem’s monumental The Milky Way (2007).

While only time will tell whether Saatchi’s predictions for the ‘shape of things to come’ in sculpture will indeed come to pass, the exhibition succeeds in providing the public with something different and pleasingly new.

The Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture is at the Saatchi Gallery until 16th October 2011.

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