LONDON – Back in our university days, the Saatchi Gallery in London was always one of our favourite haunts, representing contemporary art at the forefront of the scene and always having something new and interesting to check out during every visit. Since 2019, the Saatchi Gallery has also made some major changes, becoming a registered charity and dedicating even more resources and revenue into its core activities to support their mission of accessibility to contemporary art for all.
In returning to the UK for the first time since the pandemic struck, we met up with the Saatchi Gallery to revisit the gallery space, as well as talking to them about their new Art For Change Prize, held in conjunction with partners the M&C Saatchi Group. During our visit, we were taken on a tour of the gallery, in the final days of its blockbuster Tiffany & Co. exhibition, and the permanent collection on display, and spoke to Georgina Greenslade, Head of Communications at Saatchi Gallery, about how the gallery has evolved and adapted with the times, and its place in the national and international arts scene.
“While we became a charity in 2019, our mission and guiding principles remain the same, which is to always to present contemporary art and culture, and make it accessible to more people,” says Georgina. “We continue to present projects with partners, alongside founder Charles Saatchi’s collection, and as we move into this exciting new chapter, we can enjoy more flexibility working with lots of different artists and presenting work from across the globe. We continue to have both free and ticketed shows, and there’s always something on the ground floor. With several shows at once, there’s always something for everyone, across mediums and themes.”
“There’s always something for everyone, across mediums and themes.”Georgina Greenslade
“COVID-19 affected London galleries and museums, but since restrictions lifted, we’ve had a fantastic bounce back in interest and demand, where we sold out the Tiffany & Co. Vision & Virtuosity exhibition,” says Georgina. “Footfall and numbers are integral to us, and our visitors are hugely important, in terms of their feedback and experience, which is all important data that guides us towards programming, and as life gets back to normal again.”
“Our primary aim is to ensure cultural and contemporary art delivered to wider audience. There is a commitment to culture and access to as wide and diverse an audience as possible, internationally and locally, and to push at the limits of possibility, and craft memorable exhibitions on the premise of expecting the unexpected,” says Georgina. “The UK has historically always been a hub for the arts and culture, and in today’s uncertain climate, art provides a form of comfort or push, like how some artists are exploring environment and sustainability, or how the Tiffany & Co. exhibition, or the Bob Marley One Love Experience, remind people of elements that were such huge parts of their childhood, and they’re intrigued and interested in finding out more about them.”
“The UK has historically always been a hub for the arts and culture, and in today’s uncertain climate, art provides a form of comfort or push.”Georgina Greenslade
All this comes in line with Saatchi Gallery’s goal of education and spreading the word through their programmes. “Education is a huge part of what we do, and we have our own learning team, bring in and allow students, community groups like people with dementia and let them access shows for free, enjoy free tours and workshops, and we reinvest a lot of our core programming into education, to put it back into community and a couple of global initiatives,” says Georgina. “It’s something that builds on how it already exists in school curriculums and institutions, and goes one step further beyond just seeing art to actually seeing what can they learn, and we support that with audio guides, interactive activity packs for families, and all this helps visitors, even the youths and children to be engaged and brought into the arts scene.”
As the world continues to grow and change, so has the Saatchi Gallery’s outreach, and now capitalising on the power of technology to keep the art world and their audiences growing. “Social media may have become this beacon of something associated with negativity in general, but it’s been very positive for museums and galleries, particularly during the pandemic where it helped us keep the doors open. with online curator tours and viewing galleries,” says Georgina. “It’s a form of accessibility that allows anyone with a device and connection to go to a museum digitally. Even on our Instagram for example, we focus on sharing things online, instead of hard-selling our ongoing programmes. 70% of the time it’s just art we find interesting, like a post we hope inspires followers, and often appeals to the younger demographic, who become curious to see what the gallery is about and eventually, visit for real.”
“Social media has been very positive for museums and galleries, particularly during the pandemic where it helped us keep doors open.”Georgina Greenslade
Finally, Georgina also emphasises the collaborative aspect of the arts scene in London and beyond, and how Saatchi Gallery remains a key part of the ecosystem as it grows and changes together. “There’s always an element of collaboration across London, but not always in the form of a direct collaboration. Sometimes we end up inspired by other institutions, like how they’re developing accessibility, so we reach out to them to find out how we too can implement it,” says Georgina. “It’s not really a competition to get visitors, as we all offer something different, and people have come to know what to expect from each gallery or museum, something that’s usually unique or different to them.”
Above all though, Saatchi Gallery always takes pride in and champions the artists behind the art, finding ways to promote and platform them where possible. “We always put artists first, and strive to make them feel represented and fairly treated. These days, we do work closely with young artists, many of whom have graduated from art schools, and we want to see where they’re going or follow them on their journey,” she adds. “Particularly during this period, our partnership becomes very special, as we act as a stepping stone for them to boost their confidence and career, or even help them decide if they do want to become an artist or not.”
“Our partnership (with young artists) becomes very special, as we act as a stepping stone for them to boost their confidence and career.”Georgina Greenslade
Which is where the Art For Change Prize comes in. Created in partnership with the M&C Saatchi Group, the Prize seeks to identify the next generation of emerging artists, in line with the partnership’s aim to deepen access to contemporary art, broaden learning opportunities for young people in the UK and worldwide and identify the next generation of artists influencing real societal change. Together they believe in the power of creativity to change the world.
“M&C Saatchi and ourselves have this shared mission to deepen access to contemporary art, make culture and creativity accessible to all, and use visual art as a positive influence on the world,” says Georgina. “In this first year, our theme is ‘Equality’, and we intentionally kept it vague for artists to have freedom of interpretation, and to allow as many people as possible to try for the prize.”
Open to artists in the first five years of their career from UK, Europe, Americas, Asia, Australia, and Africa, the new Art For Change Prize offers up a total prize fund of £20,000 to be split between six regional winners. A winner from each location will be decided by some of the best business and creative minds from M&C Saatchi Group globally and eminent guest judges. All artists will exhibit their winning works in a dedicated exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, an incredible opportunity for any artist in the beginnings of their career.
“As an annual prize, we do hope that as time goes by, there’ll be greater visibility, and that entrants and winners will be able to build a community of creatives who see their career progress and maybe even go on to support future entries, whether telling friends to participate or to form a network with each other,” Georgina says. “I hope for that to reach even more people globally, and to receive incredible entries that present this platform to encourage more people to get involved and transform its future, whether in the UK, or from all around the world.”
The Art For Change prize regional winners will be announced on Wednesday 23rd November 2022, and the overall winner announced on Wednesday, 7th December 2022. The exhibition will run from 8th December 2022 to 6th January 2022.The exhibition will run from 8th December 2022 to 6th January 2022. More information available here
More information about the Saatchi Gallery available here