Summer 2007

The Saatchi Gallery

Brendan Dawes
John O’Reilly
Anne Burdick
Overview / website design

‘Porn site aesthetics applied to art’

The cyber alternative to the new Saatchi Gallery, which doesn’t open until November 2007.

Creative director: Kieran McCann.

John O’Reilly: Just in case you have been googling the wrong combination of words (the world’s shyest gallery), the Saatchi Gallery declares in bold caps: ‘The World’s Interactive Art Gallery’. And to be fair, it pretty well is. The gallery put its design and interactive resource where its shouty mouth is, and has really stolen a march. Perhaps only a gallery with Saatchi’s brashness would have the neck to truly allow the amateur and professional artists and students to show and share work.

Designwise, it’s not much more than a blog, but it expresses confidence that users don’t need flannelling. The lesson is that it’s not about having attitude, it’s about having the right attitude.

Adrian Shaughnessy: Judged purely visually, which is surely permissible when viewing an art gallery website, the Saatchi site is ghastly: typographically inept and visually chaotic. But it is redeemed by its vigorously non-elitist approach and many engaging user-driven features not normally found in art gallery websites. Owner Charles Saatchi is clearly imbued with the participatory spirit that infuses the Web. He invites everyone to get involved. Visitors can vote on art, submit art, discuss art and criticise each other’s work. There is a place for street art and student art, and the normally reclusive Saatchi even submits himself to some aggressive and flippant interrogation. He does so with unexpected wit and good grace. This is MySpace for art addicts. Shame it’s so poorly designed.

Brendan Dawes: OK. One thing that really annoys me is that message ‘click here’. If you have to tell people where they’re supposed to click, you’ve done a bad job of designing an interface. And having a load of links that constantly scroll left across the screen, regardless of whether your cursor is over a link, is so frustrating. ‘Oh, that looks interesting . . . quick, before it disappears off screen . . . ahh, too late!’ Why do they feel compelled to tell you how many hits they’ve had in the past 24 hours? Who cares?

Erik Spiekermann: Porn site aesthetics applied to art: I don’t get it. After a few minutes trying to find out which list is clickable, I gave up. I’m sure there must be lots of material hidden beneath the ugly surface, but life is too short to dig for it.

Anne Burdick: I applaud the Saatchi Gallery’s use of the internet as a distinct medium with its own culture and technological possibilities. The site’s student forum has become an interesting and popular art world / art market experiment. But the visual chaos of the interface is so heavy-handed, so ‘faux-populist’, I can barely tolerate spending time there. Sure, I love the cacophony of gossip rags and the once-cheap thrills of Vegas as much as the next pop culture addict. But the flashing text, paint splotch graphics, and hot-or-not vernacular of the interface make the site appear disingenuous or – worse – insecure about the choices it has made.

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