The renaissance might neverhave happened without themedici, the dynasty of italian princes, merchantsand bankers who embedded the 15th-century concept of patronage in society, and commissioned artworks that illustrated their intellectual, humanist and poetic interests.
Six centuries later, phoebe saatchi yatescould claim the same pedigree. her father, charles saatchi, is one of the biggest art patrons of the late 20th century. his patronage of the young british artists in the 1990s thrust british art onto a global stage, and transformed the advertising executive and his artists among them damien hirst and tracey emin into the most influential cultural figures of their day.this autumn, however, saatchi yates and her husband, arthur yates, are taking things in a slightly different direction. instead of amassing art, they are selling it opening a contemporary art gallery in theheart of mayfair.
Work and pleasure have often overlapped for the couple, who met eight years ago through mutual friends and were married last summer in lake como, italy. were very co-dependent, says yates, 29. we work together a lot. we live together. im sure theres some kind of disorder thatweve got going on. but, he counters, it really works.
This is not their first entrepreneurial venture. in 2008, while at kings college london, yates started a fashion business, supplying clothing to high-street retailers. seven yearslater, he launched the high-end embroidered shirt brand bruta, for which saatchi yates was company director. loved by both the fashion andthe art crowd, bruta was stocked in dover street market and liberty. butthe couple stopped working on the project two years agoto focus on art.
Saatchi yates studied atfilm school, but, unsurprisingly, she has long felt art a better fit. i didnt just want to go into it automatically, she saysof following her fathers giant footsteps. i wanted to come to it on my own. even so, work experience wasnt hard to come by. since 2017, the pair have been working at thesaatchi gallery, managing the collection across all its departments and increasingly playing the role of art adviser tocharles. phoebe has been in training for 25 years, says yates, of his wifes prodigious art-world knowledge. in the past five years, he adds, weve met some of the worlds best collectors and institutions. its been invaluable in building connections so that they could set outon their own.
The couple are not lacking in ambition. their gallery, saatchi yates, is opening oncork street, a road that has been associated with art dealers since the early20th century, and wheregalleries such as the mayor gallery,waddington custot and robert fraser have staged boundary-breaking, game-changing art shows. peggy guggenheim opened her guggenheim jeune art gallery at number 30 in 1938, withthe inheritance she received after hermothers death. she went on to host shows by jean cocteau and kandinsky.
Guggenheim is an obvious role model forsaatchi yates: a collector who was also equally involved in promoting andselling works of art. but the pair name-check the new york dealer leo castelli, who died 21 years ago, as their most powerful influence. castelli, arguably the most important gallerist of the past century, created showsin the 1960s and 70swith abstract expressionist and pop masters including robert rauschenberg, jasper johns and andy warhol, among others, before havingasecond wave of influence with julian schnabel and david salle a decade on.
He sounds like the perfect art dealer. hedidnt screw anyone over, was loved byeveryone, had a great time, and was verygood at his job, says saatchi yates.hereally maintained the whole charm ofthe art world, yet the innocence of the art world, yates agrees. thats something we really want to replicate: castelli elegance.
The gallery, 10,000sq ft situated opposite the new richardrogers-designed residential development and thegallery arcade linking cork street and old burlington street, will be one of the largest in the west end, outsizedin scaleonly by the likes of hauser &wirth, with its 15,000sq ft double-exhibition corner space onsavile row. rather than mimic theclean, modern exteriors of othergalleries, however, yates ispleased that their gallery looksromantic from the street withitshistoric faade.
The gallery aims to create anew focus on emerging artists inthe heart of london. were looking to make the difference, explains saatchi yates. we wantto show cutting-edge, breakthrough work in the centreof art land. the main ground-floor space will show contemporary, previously unseen work, while the lower ground will focus on secondary-market sales garnered from private collections.
We wanted to build something very alien to mayfair, yates continues, as the conversation ping-pongs between their points. the days of going to east londonand south london to discover newartists are kind of over.
Central london is certainly re-emerging as a centre for gallerists who want to show work by emerging artists. stuart shave modern art recently closed his east london arts hub on vyner street (though he is keeping his second clerkenwell gallery), and has opened a gallery on bury street in sw1 with martha jungwirth. in the west end, theres josh lilley; and pilar corrias is in bloomsbury. but mayfair itself has always been more associated with blue-chip artists and galleries. lisson gallery opened a third london space on cork street just a week ago. but saatchi yates wants to create a new landscape. says yates: we want to have a platform for young artists and radical new art.
The gallerys first exhibition is by swiss-born artist pascal sender, who studied under peter doig in dusseldorf. senders work (from 50,000) is a futuristic, digitally infused take on painting. think duchamps nude descending a staircase no. 1, spilling out into three-dimensional planes. the duo discovered him in a small, random corner of the internet, live-streaming his work to a devoted digital community. we just thought this was just so strange, so bizarre, that its got to be good because itsso original, yates explains.
While they wont reveal other artists intheir roster just yet aside from sayingtheir second exhibition will be a four-person show by french artists, titled allezla france they do say that they havediscovered most by chance, through friends, and via social media. looking inthe wrong places, as yates puts it, as opposed to graduate shows or smaller galleries which traditionally feed artists to major ones. their focus initially will be onpainting, which is amedium thatmost appeals to their clients, and arichseam for emerging art.
When it comes to thesecondary-market element of the business, charles saatchi has been an adviser, but saatchi yates is adamant that they wont be working directly with his collection in their space. as well as hosting presentations of major works by leading postwar and contemporary artists, including yayoi kusama, robert motherwell, anselm kiefer and christopher wool, private sales will be consigned from other collectors they have relationships with. wework with established collectors around the world. but, in the same way weare trying to champion new artists, we are equally interested in cultivating a new generation of art collectors. the two need each other to flourish.
While early signs are that the london gallery scene is proving more robust in apost-covid world than other commercial art capitals such as new york city, whichhas seen several gallery closures opening acommercial arts venture during a pandemic is a bold move. [people say] are you completely mad? yates laughs. the duos space is the first big london gallery tolaunch since the lockdown, even though they have been working on the project for three years. the pair see it as an opportunity to break the rules and do things in a new way. as saatchi yates observes inverting the motto of her fathers one-time ad agency rival, bbh why dont we zig when they zag?
Saatchi yates opens on 15 october at 6 cork street, london w1.