The Saatchi Gallery is in the London borough of Chelsea and Kensington, in a building named the Duke of York’s Headquarters, located in the King’s Road. It is an art gallery that was founded by the businessman Charles Saatchi with the original intension to display his large collection of contemporary art. Established in 1985, the gallery was moved to its present location in 2008 where it continues to have a major influence on the British art scene. The Saatchi Gallery, when first opened, was based in an old paint factory located in Boundary Road, in the St John’s Wood area of London. In 2003 the gallery was moved to the Southbank of the River Thames into the County Hall building in Westminster. In 2005 the gallery announced that it had plans to move to a new venue at the Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea, it was also at this time that differences between the gallery and the building’s landlords came to a head and the Saatchi Gallery moved out in acrimonious circumstances. The intended new venue was not ready so the gallery closed, and remained so until 2008.
The Duke of York’s Headquarters was constructed in 1801 to a design by the architect John Sanders. The building was originally known as the Royal Military Asylum, and served as a school for the children of solders who had died in service. In 1892 it underwent a change of name to the Duke of York’s military School. When the school moved to Dover in 1909, the name was changed again to the Duke of York’s Barracks. In 1998 it became a Grade II Listed Building. The military left in 2003 having previously sold the site to Cadogan Estates who then redeveloped the whole site, which included the introduction of a new Duke of York Square.
The refurbished building covers an area of 70,000 square feet which has been divided into fifteen exhibition areas of equal proportion which has been quoted as being “as high and as beautifully proportioned as any in London”. To celebrate its opening, the first exhibition held here was named The Revolution Continues: New Art from China. It featured the work of 24 young artists from China, with the exhibition focusing on the political issues surrounding the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
The Saatchi Gallery has established a deserved reputation for exhibiting controversial and challenging works of art. When the gallery first opened it only showed to a niche audience, but through helping to create a general awareness of contemporary art. The audience, numbers visiting this, and other sites of contemporary art, have soared.
Many of the exhibitions have featured artists who are not only relatively unknown to the British public, but also within the commercial art world itself. The gallery has acted as a springboard from which young artists have launched their careers. After having exhibited at the Saatchi, a number of them have moved on to gain international acclaim.
The original aim of the Saatchi Gallery was to provide an innovative forum for contemporary artists and their work, and to introduce to both the public, and the art world, previously unknown artists. In this respect, the gallery can certainly be considered a success story. But the real success story here is that through all the controversies, the general public have come to visit, and in doing so, learned to appreciate contemporary art.