Champagne Life: The Saatchi Gallery’s All-Female Show (Private Air Magazine)

Earlier this year, the Saatchi Gallery in London created a groundbreaking all-female art show entitled Champagne Life. We knew it was an event that would interest one of our favourite clients, Private Air Luxury Homes Magazine, so we sent along our editor Mandy – notepad, recorder and camera in hand – to get the low down on the event.

Below is the feature she wrote about the exciting exhibition – as published in the March/April issue of Private Air.

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CHAMPAGNE LIFE: THE SAATCHI GALLERY’S FIRST ALL-FEMALE SHOW

For the Saatchi Gallery in London, this year is a landmark one: it’s the venue’s 30th anniversary. Birthdays call for celebrations, of course, and the Saatchi Gallery kicked off the festivities with their first-ever all female show, Champagne Life. Fourteen international artists feature in the exhibition, though a quick walk through reveals that gender and occupation are about all that they have in common.

Just five of the artists are given a full room unto themselves, but even where two or three share a space, the capacious galleries seem to encourage viewers to engage with each artist’s work individually, rather than trying to draw dubious connections between them.

Only one of the gallery’s enormous white rooms – that containing Mia Feuer’s papier-mâché “Jerusalem Donkey,” a wall covered with charred pots and pans courtesy of Saudi artist Maha Malluh and Iranian-born Soheila Sokhanvari’s taxidermy horse, which sits astride a deflated balloon – has a loosely unifying theme of sorts: all three pieces here point toward the Middle East.

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Sharing another gallery are French sculptor Virgile Ittah’s life-size wax figures, who slump, melting, over the side of iron bed frames. They are overlooked by extraordinarily detailed, gray-scale portraits. Every furrow, shadow and mark of experience on these worn-and-torn faces is impeccably rendered by Serbian painter Jelena Bulajic.

The show draws its title from one of American artist’s Julia Wachtel’s pop-inspired paintings, which fill the entire first gallery. Here hang a series of grainy, Google-sourced photographic silkscreens of celebrities and violent scenes, all divided into vertical strips and interspersed with colorful cartoon characters. “I’m basically putting myself in the kind of topsy-turvy world of oversaturation and image production, and trying to create a destabilized, nervous emotional position in respect to that space,” Wachtel tells Private Air Luxury Homes.

This gallery is home to the exhibition’s titular work, “Champagne Life,” a canvas upon which repeated images of Hollywood’s golden couple du jour, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, are flipped upside down and spliced with paintings of a sky-blue Minnie Mouse figurine. It’s an absurd, provocative coupling and a blunt statement on celebrity and consumer culture. So why Kim? “With Kim Kardashian, she for me, represents almost pure superficiality and the idea of exteriority,” explains Wachtel. “She is a Möbius strip of exteriority: you can never get inside, there is no content. It is only about the surface. And that is the content of the surface. So I thought she’s perfect, because paintings are surfaces. That is what you are dealing with – pure surface.”

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The two Minnies on the large “Champagne Life” canvas are hand-painted and therefore, not identical. “Repetition is the logic of the media. But I am not a machine….” says Wachtel. “I’ve always hand-painted them because I feel like I need to make my own personal investment. It’s like a pilgrimage to the altar of representation that I’m going to invest my time and recreate these images and not just mechanically reproduce them.”

This article appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Private Air Magazine. You can read the full article here, or the entire issue here. For more World Words articles, take a look at our recent projects or say hi on Twitter.

Art credits: Jerusalem Donkey by Mia Feuer; Julia Wachtel standing in front of her work FLAT; TLYA 13_Tourists / TLYA 14_Parrott / TLYA 15_La Novice / TLYA 16_SR 2014 by Marie Angeletti. All photography by Mandy Hegarty.

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