November 27, 2022

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Gallery owner Phoebe Saatchi Yates on the beauty of “deeply ugly” art and her “gorgeously freaky” wedding ring

3 min read

So much in the art world revolves around questions of value, not just in terms of estimates and price tags, but also: what is your time in These Times worth, as well as your energy, your attention, and yes, your hard work? Earned money?

What is the math you do to determine the meaning and value of something? What moves you? What enriches your life? In this new series, we ask people from the art world and beyond for their personal assessments.

The daughter of mega-collector and gallery owner Charles Saatchi, Phoebe Saatchi Yates grew up appreciating and finding beauty in art of all kinds — “even if it’s deeply ugly,” she said. And now she has opened her own gallery with her husband Arthur Yates.

Not titled yet, 2022. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.” width=”976″ height=”1024″ srcset=” Nokukhanya Langa Not Yet Titled 2022 Mixed Media and Oil on Canvas 83 x 92 cm – 976×1024.jpg 976w, news-upload/2022/10/Saatchi-and-Yates-Nokukhanya-Langa-Not-Yet-Titled-2022-Mixed-Media-and-Oil-on-Canvas-83-x-92-cm–286×300.jpg 286w, Canvas-83-x-92-cm–1464×1536.jpg 1464w, Titled-2022-Mixed-Media-and-Oil-on-Canvas-83-x-92-cm–1952×2048.jpg 1952w, Saatchi-and-Yates-Nokukhanya-Langa-Not-Yet-Titled-2022-Mixed-Media-and-Oil-on-Canvas-83-x-92-cm–48×50.jpg 48w, https://news. -Titled-2022-Mixed-Media-and-Oil-on-Canvas-83-x-92-cm–1830×1920.jpg 1830w” sizes=”(max-width: 976px) 100vw, 976px”/>

Nokukhanya Langa, not yet titled (2022). Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Earlier this month the duo unveiled Saatchi Yates, a two-storey space in London’s Mayfair, with one floor showcasing world-class post-war and contemporary art from leading private collections and the other major exhibitions, bringing together emerging artists such as young Mixed -Media painter Nokukhanya Langa (until 11/15/2022). In addition to presenting her first solo exhibition in the UK, the gallery hosted a public art tour of Langa’s kaleidoscopic works during Frieze London.

As he prepared to launch three exhibitions over the next month and move the gallery to new premises in St James’s, Saatchi Yates kindly answered our evaluation questionnaire.

Gallery owner Phoebe Saatchi Yates on the beauty of “deeply ugly” art and her “gorgeously freaky” wedding ring

A pair of throne chairs by Carlo Bugatti (circa 1900). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

What was the last thing you did?

A big party at a karaoke bar. Nothing beats karaoke – except maybe Abba singing karaoke.

What are you saving for?

A chair by Carlo Bugatti. (Someday!)

What would you buy if you found €100?

A round of martinis at Dukes Bar for my dearest friends. They’re the best in the world and by law there’s only two of you, so you’re halfway there!

A Dukes martini.  Courtesy of Dukes London.

A Dukes martini. Courtesy of Dukes London.

What makes you feel like a million bucks?

I’m selling a million dollar painting to someone I like who loves it as much as I do.

What is your greatest asset?


What do you value most in a work of art?

It is beauty even when it is deeply ugly. I’m working with Christie’s on an exhibition with our artist Benjamin Spiers called Macabre (October 29-December 9, 2022). It has Otto Dix, Bosch, George Grosz – the masters of the most unattractive subjects in art. The exhibition celebrates the ugliness of life, and it turns out pretty nicely.

Benjamin Spiers, <i>pinky</i>2022. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.” width=”752″ height=”1024″ srcset=”×1024.jpg 752w ,×300.jpg 220w, 1128×1536.jpg 1128w,×2048.jpg 1505w, 10/BenjaminSpiers_Pinkie-37×50.jpg 37w,×1920.jpg 1411w, upload/2022/10/BenjaminSpiers_Pinkie-scaled.jpg 1881w” sizes=”(max-width: 752px) 100vw, 752px”/></p>
<p id=Benjamin Spiers, Pinkie (2022). Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Who’s an up and coming artist you’d bet will make it big?

This entire gallery is built around betting on emerging artists making it big.

Who is an overlooked artist who hasn’t come into his own?

Martin Maloney. I grew up with his paintings and think he’s absolutely amazing; He immediately deserves a museum exhibit in every capital city. I admire his use of color and the way he portrays character. My favorite picture is called Rave (after Poussin’s triumph of Pan). It’s his vision of a wild club night full of half-naked dancers making out all night long. His casual style of painting coupled with classic, mythological high art references is one of the reasons I admire him so much.

What is your most prized possession?

My wedding ring – a tiny enamel portrait of my husband. It’s wonderfully freaky.

that of the couple "wonderfully freaky" wedding rings.  Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

The couple’s “gorgeously freaky” wedding rings. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

What was your best investment?

Dyson’s Air Shell.

What’s not worth the hype?

The art world has always been built on hype, whether it’s Botticelli, Picasso or Jeff Koons. If the work is fun, it’s usually worth the hype.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the art world?

art dealer.

What are you aiming for?

A contented soul waking up singing.

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