New Art from China – Saatchi Gallery

Like most people my age I have the abiding memory of, whenever a toy broke in my hand, inspecting it more closely and through the mist of my tears discovering the words, “Made in China” embossed on what was, inevitably, an unbroken part.  It is no wonder then that one’s first reaction to the words “Made in China” is, well: shit.

What’s rather refreshing about this new exhibition in Saatchi’s crisp new Duke of York’s space in Chelsea is that, like the giant mound of excretia made from tarred and melted army toys in the second room, this reaction seems to have been anticipated.

Is it crap?  Well no.  It doesn’t smell, you don’t have the pleasure of making it and judging from the hoards of well heeled chelscensters at the public opening, it cannot really be indulged in private.

It is interesting and amusing and pretty much does what we tend to like “Art” to do nowadays; which is divert with facile allusion.  Rather like high end “Dancing on Ice“.  It comments but then excuses itself from comment when it gets it wrong by being “Art”.

The centrepiece of the show is the room full of aging world leaders wandering about in electric wheel chairs, half asleep, frighteningly real wax works, living out the random conflicts and bumps of their confinement.  At one level you can find the “comment”, though the leaders seem unidentifiable, in the obvious allusion to world conflict.  On the other hand, their journeys are so slow and their sensors so diplomatic that it becomes ludicrous and the satiric edge is dampened and… well never mind, it’s art.

The unstated comment that underlies this exhibition, though, is interesting.  So deeply ingrained is the propaganda of the Revolution, the theme of the glory of the common worker overcoming the decadent capitalism of the bestern wankers is apparently unintentionally evident in almost every work.  We have the real, stuffed, hard working donkey, pushing over the metal, industrial, artifical New York skyscraper; the apparently minimalist decadent blank canvas, which on closer inspection is being hurried over by worker ants; the iconic busts of western art are impaled by the fieldworkers pitchforks grown in to the shape by nature.  It’s not difficult to work out which end of the chippy spectrum these artists, and their country, are coming from.

Art and politics love flirting with each other, each thinking the other gives them some edge.  But they’ve never mixed well.  After all, if a week is a long time in politics, a decade is a blink of an eye for great art… so if you’re looking for that, you won’t find it here.

Saatchi’s advertiser’s eye for the catchy and current undermines his search for great art.  This, like so much “Sensation” brit art and too many ads, is amusing, interesting and instantly forgettable.  What was I talking about?

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