The title of Saatchi’s new exhibition “Champagne Life” might conjure up images of bohemian dancing with champagne on the beach, but it is taken from one of Julia Wachel’s pictures which contrasts the lonely life of artists working creatively for all the hours of the day that they can in their cold Spartan studios with the champagne parties of the collectors, gallery owners and press reporters when the works have been hung on the walls, all to be repeated again for the next exhibition. The Saatchi Gallery is celebrating its 30th year on the international stage; it has always championed female artists such as Tracey Emin and Paula Rego and, for this new exhibition, is showing the work of 14 new and emerging female artists from around the world.
“We’ve always supported the work of women artists over the years, many of those have gone on to have key roles in the contemporary art world, but I think there’s still a huge amount of work to be done,” (Nigel Hurst, Saatchi Gallery).
Many of the artists fill whole rooms with their work – Wachel who follows Andy Warhol’s inspiration by screen-printing images from popular culture with cartoon characters adding a new twist such as in “Container/Cave”, Alice Anderson with her large-scale bobbin and ball of copper wire, Mequitta Ahuja with her rhythmic dancing paintings and Sigrid Holmwood whose fluorescent painting glow out of the walls. The newest work is Julia Dault’s curving sculpture created in the gallery itself only a week ago.
A sign of success is that the several of the artists are or have been included in other exhibitions in London: Alice Anderson at the Wellcome Collection, Jelena Bulajic at Charlie Smith London, Julia Wachel at Vilma Gold and Stephanie Quayle and Seung Ah Paik at the Saatchi itself.
The exhibition of these 14 artist shows the diversity of their work, but we should celebrate the quality of their art irrespective of their sex. Is an exhibition on women artists really needed in the 21st century? Sadly it appears that it is as they are under-represented in the salerooms. The suggestion is therefore that the issue is not art, but the traditional culture in the art world. The fact that many of these artists have been included in recent or current exhibitions shows that they are accepted for their talent. What would have been interesting would have been to examine how female artists can influence the still-masculine art world, in the same way that female business leaders have brought different skills and perspectives to leadership and business.