Just what has Charles Saatchi given to the nation? A unwanted present of highly ephemeral art, art which at best belongs to the moment and at worst has no place in time or art. Art which once it’s achieved the shock it was aiming for has no other value, and yet, it’s now ours, glorified as the Museum of Contemporary Art, London, God help us, in the hope that we will be condemned to remember it.
Financially it has huge value, but for how long? How long before it all crumbles? Duchamp didn’t want his art to survive but we’ve made certain it did. In our time Hurst and Emin may want their output to survive, but I’m sure future generations, museums notwithstanding, will make certain it doesn’t.
Only art which goes beyond political and cultural boundaries, and defines in some way what it means to be human, can survive. Art that shocks is hardly art, and only curiosity will keep it alive.
Saatchi’s pseudo-museum can only have value if it endlessly chucks out the old and replenishes with the new. But it’s all tied to the values Saatchi represents and the monetary value he put on each item, so he won’t want to see them replaced, and thereby devalued. If ever a museum was tied to money, this is it, if ever in time a museum was destined to fail it is this.
If I’m wrong… well. I can’t be wrong. If I’m wrong, it will be a measure of our times, and how we’ve sold out to the ephemeral, and put anything of lasting value well behind us. That may indeed be the world to which were headed, a world of soundbites and snippits, easily accessed, easy to move on from, ever-changing, and ultimately worthless.
How we hold on to values in our modern world is a major concern. Saatchi may yet triumph. Inception as a new movie is all about inhabiting minds. Maybe our minds are already inhabited…
One final thought. Does the nation exist as a disembodied entity to which items can be given? I think not, and thank God for that. The nation as the state? ‘No charges,’ we are told, ‘will fall to the state.’ Which is just as well.