Contemporary Art Market: Saatchi swoops for video pieces

CHARLES SAATCHI, the advertising tycoon, has made another dawn raid on a gallery, sweeping up the top exhibits for his famous collection of contemporary art.

This time the lucky artist is Tony Oursler, an American who is having his first London showing at the Lisson Gallery, at 67 Lisson Street, W1. The purchases imply a small shift of emphasis in the collection; Mr Saatchi has recently been concentrating on young British artists.

'Saatchi has an extraordinary nose for a good artist,' Nicholas Logsdail, who runs the gallery, said. 'He arrived three days before the opening and bought the three best pieces.'

Oursler is a video artist with a difference. The three pieces Mr Saatchi purchased are all roughly-made figures with squarish pillows for heads; on to the pillows he projects a video image of his own, or someone's else's head, accompanied by a soundtrack. The pieces take about 20 minutes to get through their script.

POV (Point of View) has a black-and-white video face above scarecrow-type clothes strung high up in a corner of the gallery, with an eerie green light behind them. The face, which is the artist's own, horribly distorted by the shape of the pillow, voices an argument about ghosts between a scientist, a priest and a man who has experienced them; the text is a cleverly observed anthology of cliches - 'all they are is an electro- magnetic field, at this point'. It was priced at pounds 10,000.

MMPI Test Dummy No. 2 ( pounds 9,500) is another scarecrow, at ground level, with a pink face which invites the viewers to 'answer the following statements, true or false' as a means of testing their own sanity. The unaccented statements range from the banal to the horrifying.

Mr Saatchi's third purchase is a tiny figure, like a voodoo doll, which features the face of an actress, Tracy Leopold. For 15 minutes her facial expression reveals a desperate attempt to control hysteria, then she breaks down and screams. It is called Hysterics and costs pounds 5,500.

Peter Doig, a British painter, won the Eliette von Karajan prize in Salzburg, Austria, last week. The prize - about pounds 13,000 cash and a fully catalogued exhibition that will tour Salzburg, Vienna and Paris - was established by the famous conductor's widow in memory of her husband. Doig also won first prize at the John Moores Exhibition in Liverpool last December. His work can be admired at the Victoria Miro Gallery, 21 Cork Street, London W1, until Friday.

(Photograph omitted)

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