Just a side order of controversy to take away as Saatchi paints over the cracks

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The Independent Online

His last show was slated as "disappointing," "pig-ignorant" and, most damningly of all, "an aesthetic Titanic".

His last show was slated as "disappointing," "pig-ignorant" and, most damningly of all, "an aesthetic Titanic".

But with all the capacity for re-invention you might expect from one of Britain's most successful ad-men, Charles Saatchi has stripped down his new show and removed most of the controversy and tack for which he is famed.

The new show at the Saatchi Gallery in London's old County Hall contrasts starkly with New Blood, the last, which showcased Stella Vine's kitsch portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales alongside a self-explanatory Spunk Chandelier. For a start, Galleon and Other Stories, which opens on Wednesday, concentrates on good old-fashioned painting.

Even more striking in a building many critics have criticised for its civic oak-panelling, many works are being shown against specially installed white walls, the conventional backdrop for contemporary art.

Then there are the works themselves. Saatchi would mock the idea that he was sensitive to criticism, but the new show is a selection of award-winners, artists whose pedigree has been acclaimed by the art world at large, not just by his own large bank balance.

If Tate Modern can show the influential Belgian painter Luc Tuymans as one of its summer highlights, Saatchi seems to suggest, "then so can I".

As well as the permanent displays of classics by Britart stars such as Damien Hirst (dead sheep and shark) Chris Ofili (elephant-dung madonna) and Tracey Emin (unmade bed), he is showing works by Turner prize nominees such as Peter Doig, Michael Raedecker and Glenn Brown.

And with a nod to the younger generation, there are several artists who have come to prominence through the Institute of Contemporary Arts' Beck's Futures prize for those not yet on the establishment map. They include Tim Stoner, the winner in 2001, and Simon Bedwell, one of this year's shortlisted artists.

A source close to Saatchi said the exhibition was simply different to the last. "The reality was Charles wanted to show a lot more painting. There's a lot of very interesting, very strong painting going on," the insider said. "And he has tried to make the rooms look better for the paintings. It is hard for paintings to survive big windows and wood, but we're getting more used to this building.

"The last show was very, very dense, in both senses of the word. He liked it because it was something different - he had always hung things in a very cool way before, but things were just walloped in [in New Blood]. But this is comparatively easier on the eye."

Though of course the show is not devoid of the inflammatory. Mally Mallinson has devised a work called JFC Bible Burgers inspired by the fast-food joints which are replacing traditional East End pubs where he lives and works. Featuring chips in Ku Klux Klan hoods and a Shroud of Turin-style face in a doner kebab, its title plays on KFC but stands for Jesus Fucking Christ.

And there is a typical injection of humour. Any visitor entranced by the brilliant drawings of a schoolgirl prodigy, Naomi V Jelish, who disappeared in tragic personal circumstances, needs to read the accompanying label more carefully. Naomi V Jelish is an anagram of Jamie Shovlin, the artist who really created them.

Whatever the response to the new exhibition, Charles Saatchi appears intent on staying in his new home on the South Bank, by the London Eye and opposite Parliament.

"He didn't want another white box, another Boundary Road [his original gallery in north London]," a gallery insider said. "He likes it here, he wants to be by the river."

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