Contemporary Art Market: Saatchi pays pounds 4,000 for shed with a statement

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The Independent Online
A SILVER PLASTIC garden shed is the latest artistic statement that has taken the eye of Charles Saatchi, the advertising tycoon and patron of contemporary art.

In the Hales Gallery, which occupies the basement of a cafe in Deptford High Street, south-east London, John Frankland, the artist, and Paul Hedge, the gallery director, celebrated the sale with stunned delight last week. They had charged Saatchi pounds 4,000 for it.

Frankland and Hedge were both students at Goldsmiths' College in 1980-83 - well before Damien Hirst's generation made the college famous.

With a group of other students they ran a gallery called Scratch in a couple of council houses during their college years. A few critics wrote about them, but their names slipped from the collective memory once they had graduated.

Hedge spent almost 10 years as a postman, while Frankland became a builder's mate and carpenter.

Then Hedge and his wife managed to get Hales Gallery off the ground in May 1992 by collaborating with friends to run the Revival Cafe upstairs, which subsidises the gallery space. And Frankland began to earn enough from his carpentry to pay for a studio. He became fascinated with plastic sheeting - the black stuff used for bin liners.

'It's so cheap,' he said. 'How can you signify disposability better? But it's non-biodegradable; in fact, it's more permanent than Leonardo da Vinci. That gets you into the question of what is permanent and what is not - though I'm more interested in the physicality of the work than the theory.' His silver shed is soft, because the wooden frame (using his carpentry skills) is covered in silver plastic. Saatchi is also considering whether to purchase a set of gold plastic lift doors (leading nowhere) that Frankland exhibited at the Hales Gallery last year.

'I've been asked to estimate the cost of installing the piece at the Boundary Road gallery. I think the purchase hangs on that,' Frankland said.

Another of Saatchi's proteges is showing at the uptown, up-market d'Offay Gallery in Dering Street, W1. Janine Antoni, a 30- year-old American born in the Bahamas, tries to physically enter the art works she creates. At d'Offay's she has built a loom on which she is weaving an endless blanket; she sleeps in the gallery at night and weaves by day - she'll be at it until 16 April.

She spent the first night hooked up to a poliosonograph which recorded her brain waves. She has based the design of her blanket on the sections of the graph where rapid eye movements indicated that she was dreaming. She tears strips off her blue nightdress every morning to weave the pattern with.

The installation, without the artist weaving, is for sale with a price tag of dollars 30,000 ( pounds 20,270).

'I'd like to keep the option to weave if it's put on show,' says Antoni, who is hoping to repeat the loom performance, called Slumber, at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, later this year.

Saatchi has spent dollars 18,000 ( pounds 12,162) on Antoni's star turn of 1993, a piece called Gnaw, which was featured at the Whitney Biennial. She began with a 600lb block of chocolate and a 500lb block of lard - each the same size. Then she gnawed on them and turned her mouthfuls into heart-shaped packets of candy and 400 tubes of lipstick; Saatchi gets the partly gnawed blocks, plus the products.

(Photograph omitted)

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