Arts Arts Editor Muse

Antonia Shaw

Hell has frozen over. Charles Saatchi, marketing mogul and contemporary art collector, is to preside over a reality television show on BBC2, an 'X-factor for artists'.

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Hell has frozen over. Charles Saatchi, marketing mogul and contemporary art collector, is to preside over a reality television show on BBC2, an 'X-factor for artists'. The programme, egotistically entitled 'Saatchi's Best of British', will be broadcast this autumn. It ambitiously aims to discover and foster the next Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin. Since when has great art ever been produced on a claustrophobic conveyor belt?

This talent contest is open to all practitioners over the age of 18 and to all mediums. In traditional reality format, the six selected artists will attend an art school 'boot camp', where top contemporary artists will tutor them. Saatchi will supervise their work, provide critique - although we will not see footage of him speaking - and eventually crown the winner.

Saatchi, perceived as a patron of the gifted modern artist, is "looking forward to the prospect of finding undiscovered British talent" and encourages "anyone with a fresh creative approach to enter, because nobody knows where the next art star will emerge from." Surely the experienced art connoisseur is conscious of the fact that finding an 'art star' in this manner will be more celebrity than great master.

Having co-founded the legendary 'Saatchi & Saatchi' advertising agency, he is more renowned for his contribution to the British Art market. He opened his self-named gallery in 1985 and thirteen years later bankrolled and promoted the 'Young British Artists' movement, featuring Hirst and Emin, in his exhibition 'Sensation'. Acting as a modern Medici, he raised the profile of these artists extraordinarily, and in doing so, his own fame rose. If Saatchi so much glanced at artwork its value would soar. Like children following the pied piper, the art world scuttled after this marketing mind and his unparalleled support of emerging modern artists.

Recently the light of Saatchi's fame seems to have dwindled slightly. The lengthy two year move of his gallery from Southbank to Chelsea has left him somewhat out of the limelight. And none of his exhibitions post 1997 have rivalled the stir of 'Sensation'. Perhaps this explains the publicity stunt Saatchi is about to embark on.

Maybe I'm too cynical. Peter Dale, the executive producer of the show believes, "for viewers who are passionate about this art form, the programme offers a fascinating insight behind the scenes and into the minds that create the work. For others, it will be a journey of discovery as the series demystifies the subject and makes the art more accessible." Additionally, it could be seen to highlight the 'Warhol-esque' concept of commercialism in art. What typifies our consumer culture more than reality TV?
I can't help but feel that this is nothing but shameless self-promotion from Saatchi. Insightful as ever, he has tapped into our current cultural climate: the bourgeoisie angst of promoting inclusiveness within the arts. If you wish to participate in this charade apply at www.submityourart.com from February 2 until March 29.

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