Gallerist Phoebe Saatchi Yates On the Beauty of ‘Deeply Ugly’ Art and Her ‘Delightfully Freaky’ Wedding Ring

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So much of the art world orbits around questions of value, not only in term of appraisals and price tags, but also: What is worthy of your time in These Times, as well as your energy, your attention, and yes, your hard-earned cash?

What is the math that you do to determine something’s meaning and worth? What moves you? What enriches your life? In this new series, we’re asking individuals from the art world and beyond about the valuations that they make at a personal level.

As the daughter of mega collector and gallerist Charles Saatchi, Phoebe Saatchi Yates grew up appreciating and finding beauty in art of all kinds—“even if it is deeply ugly,” she said. And now, with her husband Arthur Yates, she has opened a gallery of her own.

Nokukhanya Langa, <i>Not Yet Titled</i>, 2022. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Nokukhanya Langa, Not Yet Titled (2022). Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Earlier this month, the duo opened Saatchi Yates, a two-level space in London’s Mayfair, with one floor showcasing blue-chip post-war and contemporary art from leading private collections, and the other staging large-scale exhibitions that spotlight emerging artists such as the young mixed-media painter Nokukhanya Langa (through November 15, 2022). In addition to presenting her first U.K. solo show at Frieze London, the gallery staged a public art trail featuring Langa’s kaleidoscopic works.

While preparing to launch three exhibitions next month, and to move the gallery into a new space in St James’s, Saatchi Yates kindly responded to our Valuations questionnaire.

A pair of throne chairs by Carlo Bugatti, ca. 1900. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A pair of throne chairs by Carlo Bugatti (ca. 1900). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

What was the last thing that you splurged on?

A big party at a karaoke bar. Nothing is better than karaoke—except maybe signing Abba at karaoke.

What is something that you’re saving up for?

A Carlo Bugatti chair. (Someday!)

What would you buy if you found $100?

A round of martinis at Dukes Bar for my dearest friends. They are the best in the world and you are only legally allowed two, so would be halfway there!

A dirty Dukes martini. Courtesy of Dukes London.

A dirty Dukes martini. Courtesy of Dukes London.

What makes you feel like a million bucks?

Selling a million dollar painting to someone I like, who loves it as much as I do.

What is your greatest asset?

Arthur.

What do you most value in a work of art?

It’s beauty, even if it is deeply ugly. I am working with Christie’s on an exhibition with our artist Benjamin Spiers titled “Macabre” (October 29–December 9, 2022). It has Otto Dix, Bosch, George Grosz—the masters of the most unappealing subject matter in art. The exhibition celebrates the ugliness of life, and it’s shaping up to be quite beautiful.

Benjamin Spiers, <i>Pinkie</i>, 2022. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Benjamin Spiers, Pinkie (2022). Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

Who is an emerging artist you’d bet on making it big?

This entire gallery is based on betting on emerging artists making it big.

Who is an overlooked artist who hasn’t yet gotten their due?

Martin Maloney. I grew up with his paintings and think he is absolutely fantastic; he deserves a museum show in every capital city immediately. I adore his use of color and the way he portrays character. My favorite painting is called . It is his vision of a wild club night full of half-naked dancers, snogging the night away. His casual painting style paired with classic, mythological high-art references is one of the reasons I admire him so much.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wedding ring—a minute enamel portrait of my husband. It’s delightfully freaky.

The "delightfully freaky" wedding ring. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

The “delightfully freaky” wedding ring. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates.

What’s been your best investment?

The Dyson air wrap.

What’s not worth the hype?

The art business has always been built on hype, whether it’s Botticelli or Picasso or Jeff Koons. If the work provides pleasure, it is usually worth the hype.

What, in your estimation, is the most overrated thing in the art world?

Art dealers.

What do you aspire to own someday?

A satisfied soul that wakes up singing.

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