“Why are all those people standing with their back to the Eiffel Tower?” I wondered out loud on a visit to Paris a few years ago. “They are taking selfies”, I was informed by two barely ten year olds. Everywhere you go now, it seems that somebody will be pointing a camera phone at themselves to record their visit. Now the Saatchi Gallery has decided to put on the first exhibition devoted to the selfie or Saatchi Selfie. Where better to take the teens?
The first room is filled with images of old-school selfies, those painted with brushes and paint by artists. This being the twenty-first century, the paintings are not the actual paintings on canvas but photos of them displayed on what looks like giant phone screens. You are encouraged to vote for your favourite by touching the screen and are rewarded by a big heart.
One vast room is devoted to thousands of images of people using Skype, FaceTime and the like. Not only can you see them, you can hear them too: its like sitting in the middle of a call centre and hearing one end of lots of conversations. The projector even projects on you, casting your shadow on the display, making you become a part of it. All very clever.
There are pictures of people taking selfies and lots of those selfies themselves. I confess that one of my favourites is a piece of fake news. Alison Jackson is well known for a her photographs that look like paparazzi shots but are actually cleverly composed using actors. This shot of hers purporting to show Donald Trump taking a selfie with some Miss Universe contestants is great, we can believe it, but at the same time there are tiny details that go just too far over the top.
It’s not just humans that take selfies; this macaque monkey is the first known animal to knowingly take its own photo. I notice with dismay that he has got the smiling and looking into the lens thing on his first attempt, unlike my own sorry attempts. Maybe if I asked the macaque, he could take a photo of me?
SELFIE TO SELF-EXPRESSION
31 March 2017 – 30 May 2017
Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, Kings Road, SW3 4RY
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
Gerald Scarfe’s work is very familiar. His political cartoons still appear in the Sunday Times, he drew the title sequence for ‘Yes Minister’ and, of course, he came up with the cover for the Pink Floyd album ‘The Wall’. Familiar and yet he has rarely sold his original artwork, preferring to keep them. Now Sotheby’s have managed to persuade him to put some of those originals up for sale. Before they go under the hammer you can pop along to see them at Scarfe at Sotheby’s.
The first thing that you see at Scarfe at Sotheby’s is a reproduction of that wall from the Pink Floyd video hung with the drawings for animated video.
The Junior CW’s were a bit bemused by their mother making cryptic pronouncements about just another brick in the wall. They really like political cartoons which is why we came to Scarfe at Sotheby’s. In truth they were just as bemused by the cast of 80’s politicians in the early works. Luckily Michael Heseltine has been in the news recently and I’d explained about his Tarzan moment.
Gerald Scarfe also designed posters and costumes for the theatre. This poster for ‘Serious Money’ by Caryl Churchill took me back to when I first came down to London and went to see the play.
More up to date is this series of cartoons inspired by Brexit and Donald Trump. Because the cartoons were created to be seen in newspapers and not hung on the wall, corrections made in Tippex are visible on many of them, showing where Gerald Scarfe decided that a line would be better placed a few millimetres away from the original.
All one hundred and thirty-four images on display are for sale. Most have an estimate of between £3,000 and £6,000, too rich for our blood! Most expensive of all is the last portrait made of Winston Churchill in his lifetime. Gerald Scarfe was commissioned by the Sunday Times to draw the former Prime Minister to mark his retirement from the House of Commons; six months later he was dead. Winston Churchill has an estimate of £100,000 to £150,000 but I suspect that eager bidders may push the prices of all the lots higher.
SCARFE AT SOTHEBY’S
EXHIBITION: 1 April 2017 – 4 April 2017
AUCTION: 5 April 2017 10.30am