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Delirious With Weird

Wednesday, May 26, 2004  
Up In Smoke
Fire at Charles Saatchi's Leyton warehouse has destroyed his art collection. I can't help but feel that it serves him right; not because I have any malice towards Saatchi, I just think it's quite beautiful that all this art which he was treating as a pension plan, an investment, a bond, financial capitol rather than cultural documentation, has been destroyed by an airily tossed cigarette or a gas leak or whatever it was that caused the fire. I like the idea of art being temporal anyway (sculptures should be touched, paintings exposed to light + air - how things react and change and decay over time is as much what the art is about as the actual things themselves; decay is as much a part of an object as it's colour or molecules or whatever), and this art, preserved, hidden, banked upon, is now the most temporal of all.

Plus a lot of it (HELLO TRACEY EMIN) was shite anyway.


5/26/2004 02:11:00 pm


Anonymous Anonymous - 11:21 pm

hmmm, that warehouse was unfortunately also the storehouse for the craft council's collection (and some V&A stuff also?) - this bit not an investment at all, but a major historical archive all gone now - mark s

Blogger Nick - 7:14 am

Now that actually is a bummer; however, as expressed on ILE (I may copy&paste it to here later) I'm still vaguelly in favour of our preserved history destroyed under some circumstances.

Blogger Nick - 8:55 am

My comments from the ILE thread.It's sad when anything gets destroyed in a fire especially when it's a human being's pension plan / savings / investments. It's not sad when Charles Saatchi's pension plan burns because he doens't need a pension as he is megamega rich. It's not sad when art is destroyed unless you love that art because art has no intrinsic value other than that which we place on it. It's not sad that bad art gets destroyed because it's bad. It's good when good art gets destroyed because it might teach us important lessons about the value of history, the temporal nature of art, and our attitudes toward art.

Well I hope I'm not making 'ignorant YBA generalisations' (although I don't know what YBA means so I might be, haha); I do think too much stock is placed in teh value of material things though. I've said before here and on my blog that if I lost my record collection however I like to think I'd just take it as an incentive to do something else with my time. They're just records, however much I may love/enjoy/value them, and I wont die if I can't ever listen to one particular song by whoever again. Likewise I don't think the cultural fabric of the UK is going to be ripped apart by a collection of recent artworks (or old artworks, for that matter) being destroyed in a fire. And, much as losing my recorc collection would be good because it would encourage me to maybe go outside more and meet more people or whatever, this might encourage people not to store huge amounts of 'valuable' (in a monetary or cultural sense) works of art in a warehouse like bonds in a bank (bonds not really being meant to be looked at, unlike art [possibly]). But then again I know bugger-all about art.

Also, Tim, it's not your art; quite possibly, no matter your feelings for it, you wouldn't ever be able to see it ever again (whichever piece of art this hypothetically is that has been destroyed) because it would be in storage for teh rest of your life, meaning you could never actually experience it first hand ever again. If this were to be the case (totally hypothetically, again), does it then matter if that piece of art is destroyed never to be seen again by anyone? The emotions inspired by that art initially have still existed and may still exist in your memory (if emotions exist at all, yadda yadda); do they require the current existence of the artwork, or just knowledge that it has existed?

I see what you mean about the "emperor's new clothes" cry, but at the same time I am occasionally guarded at people proclaiming 'genius' when they mean 'novelty'. Which is not the same thing as someone saying that something 'new' is also 'good' or even 'great' or even just that they get value from it.

(Obv. I've only posted my words, some of which are rather confusing out of context, but a; I didn't wanna c&p the whole thread, b; there's a link up there, and c; I don't wanna be cherrypicking anyone else's comments in order to contextualise mine lest I make them look weird.)

Blogger Tim - 10:45 am

Which Tracey Emin stuff have you seen, Nick? Is there any which particularly displeased you? (NB I'm no Emin expert, I'm not trying to pull a you-don't-know-enough-to-have-an-opinion trick, I'm interested.)

Blogger scott - 3:12 pm

yeah largely fair enough, although a record collection is a bit more easily replaceable than a piece of visual art.

"I like to think I'd just take it as an incentive to do something else with my time."

honest of you to put that qualifying 'like to think' (mebbe you'd be distraught as heck); i ain't got any interest in boo-hooing over these artists (tho' at least Emin's reported comments showed a sense of perspective, which is more than can be said for some maudlin arts journos over the whole sitch).

a blanket 'tis good if good art gets destroyed' seems unsatisfactory though surely?

the memory and all that like everyone is saying is deffo right, but even a philistine like myself would be gutted at the thought of never being able to see certain pieces (e.g., it's a dream i can go gallery browsing in Madrid one day for instance, where i have never been)

Blogger Nick - 3:28 pm

Tim - I remember seeing a docu. about her some time ago, and it's perhaps telling that I can't remember any of it except the two 'infamous' pieces; i.e. the bed and the tent, neither of which struck on either an emotional, aesthetic or intellectual level. Perhaps the most 'memorable' piece of 'art' she's 'created' is the time I saw her on some late-night debate programme (I forget what the topic was, something lofty and vague like 'god' or 'art'; this was back when I was an undergraduate), and she was absolutely pissed out of her mind, kicked up a fuss, was rude to everyone, and walked out. If she's positing her life as a work of art, and the ideas behind stuff like 'Bed' and 'Everybody I've Ever Slept with 196#-199#' (I forget the years) would suggest that she is, then that was more memorable, more amusing, more disturbing, and more thought-provoking then her actual 'buyable' pieces.

Anonymous Anonymous - 9:33 pm

Being in the actual presence of 'bed' is a lot different than seeing/reading about it; like reading about an album and then hearing it. I found it quite sad/depressing/involving when you see all the detrius around it. (stylusscott)

Blogger nope - 12:29 pm


I'm sorry for being intrusive in to your blog. But I am Melissa and I am a mother of two that is just trying to get out of an incredible financial debt. See my hubby is away in Iraq trying to protect this great country that we live in, and I am at home with our two kids telling bill collectors please be patiant. When my husband returns from war we will beable to catch up on our payments. We have already had are 2001 Ford repossessed from the bank, and are now down to a 83 buick that is rusted from front to back and the heater don't work, and tire tax is due in November.

I'm not asking for your pitty because we got our ownselfs into this mess but we would love you and thank you in our prayers if you would just keep this link on your blog for others to view.

God Bless You.

Melissa K. W.
To see my family view this page. My Family

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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

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