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Saatchi's Singular Vision

LONDON — County Hall, with its antiquated wood paneling, grand marble staircase and soaring cupola, is an unlikely venue in which to show a collection of floating barnyard animals and the art world’s most famously unmade bed — but...

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Reviews, so far, have been mixed. The Independent called the gallery "terrible curating in a terrible place." The Evening Standard and The Sunday Times Magazine were more sympathetic, the latter even calling it "spectacular."

It’s no secret that Saatchi views the new gallery as a rival to Tate Modern, a 10-minute walk downriver in the burgeoning center of the South Bank. But unlike Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate galleries, Saatchi can buy the art and stage the shows he wants, and sources say Saatchi relishes the fact that he’s in no way accountable to a board of directors.

"I don’t want the artists I believe in to have to wait until they’re pensioners before the public has a chance to see their works in large-scale shows," Saatchi said in a statement issued this year.

He’s certainly giving the public their chance to indulge: The gallery will be open seven days a week, and from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on weekends.

Saatchi’s first gallery, a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in north London, opened in 1985 and closed in fall 2001 in anticipation of County Hall’s debut. The former gallery was a sprawling minimal space that couldn’t be more different from County Hall. But if Saatchi needed a sign that County Hall was meant to be, he certainly got it. When Saatchi’s team finally got the keys and entered a dusty, messy space last December, they removed a chandelier to clean it, discovering about 50 very Hirst-like dead pigeons inside.
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