by Jodie Shepherd


Art & Culture November 14, 2017

Until early January, the Saatchi Gallery will present major exhibition, ICONOCLASTS: ART OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM, featuring the work of thirteen contemporary artists. In light of the exhibition, I spoke to Philly Adams, the senior director of the gallery about the meaning behind the exhibition and what they look for in artists.

Giovanni, 2009 | © Maurizio Anzeri

When we spoke about the meaning of “art out of the mainstream”, Philly Adams said [Saatchi Gallery] are representing a group whose works challenge on so many levels. Whether it’s the medium, the process or the resources they use. “While they cannot be described as iconoclasts in the traditional sense of the word”, she said, “they are all driven by an iconoclastic urge. This manifests itself in the intriguingly diverse, and often destructive ways, they produce art”.

Since the gallery works concurrently on a number of shows, they have the flexibility to continue shaping them. “Bringing together this distinct group of artists seemed very relevant right now”, she continued. “This exhibition explores the experimental, and often transformational, practices of these artists. They use a myriad of diverse image-making techniques, from branding imagery onto human skin, to weaving thousands of crow feathers, to embroidering onto vintage photographs. Their interpretations and references hold contemporary significance and gives us an opportunity to reflect”.

Illustrated People #6, 2014 | © Thomas Mailaender

As an act, iconoclasm historically holds both religious and progressive connotations. However, 21st century culture has eroded the radicalism of this concept, and artists are now questioning the intrinsic nature of iconoclasm itself by scrutinizing what defines a work of art.

“We don’t know what we are looking for until it jumps out at us!” Philly said when I asked her what the Saatchi Gallery looks for in artists. “I guess presenting the work of artists who are breaking today’s mould or taboos in very different ways. Something that holds its own, something fresh. Something simple that is beautiful, but often resonates with an undercurrent. Most importantly, however, we select the work of artists that we like and hope our visitors will also respond to them”.

Man and Dog, 2012 | © Renee So

“It’s a very important time to be an artist”, Philly Adams continued. “The current art landscape is a direct overflow, reflecting on what is happening globally, culturally and politically. Artists have enormous freedom and we have a responsibility to listen and to an extent we reflect that in our shows”. 

For many years, the Saatchi Gallery has prided themselves on working with artists who may otherwise be unknown to the ‘general public and commercial art world’. “We offer free entrance to all our gallery exhibitions”, she added. “Accessibility and education are key and our focus remains on exhibiting the works of emerging artists. The best thing about visiting galleries is to discover works and new artists that resonate with you on some level. If only to argue and debate”.

Their next exhibition is titled ‘Known Unknowns’ which features artists well-established in the gallery’s collection, but again, not necessarily widely known to the public beyond the wider art community; “Bringing into dialogue another chance for visitors to enjoy some new discoveries and for others a chance to rediscover, reassess and reposition”. 

ICONOCLASTS: ART OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM runs until 7th January 2018.
For more information on the artists, click here.

Entry to all the Saatchi Gallery’s exhibitions is free. Photos are courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery


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21st century 5 minutes with art Art out of the mainstream artists Contemporary Art culture exhibition gallery history iconoclasm ICONOCLASTS interview Known Unknowns Maurizio Anzeri painting Philly Adams photography religion Renee So Saatchi Gallery sculpture Thomas Mailaender