Art Market

Saatchi Yates Unearths Fresh Talent at Its New London Gallery

Lucy Howie
Jan 27, 2023 5:05PM

Portrait of Phoebe Saatchi Yates and Arthur Yates, 2023. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates, London.

At the ages of 28 and 32, respectively, Phoebe Saatchi Yates and Arthur Yates are among the younger gallerists in London today. But during their short history as Saatchi Yates, the pair have brought a refreshing attitude to the heart of London’s commercial art landscape since their arrival on Mayfair’s Cork Street in 2020. After less than three years, however, they’re upping sticks to St. James’s, a five-minute walk from their former location and a stone’s throw away from Buckingham Palace and Christie’s.

Phoebe and Arthur’s zeal for grandeur is reflected in the sheer size of their new 10,000-square-foot gallery in St. James’s, ready with its crisp white walls, large paintings, and newly laid glossy floor. Beaming with enthusiasm, the couple met Artsy ahead of the gallery’s January opening.

Exterior view of Saatchi Yates, London. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates, London.


Straddling the old with the new is also important to Phoebe and Arthur’s vision for Saatchi Yates. “We always have one foot in the past and one foot in the future,” said Phoebe. Their relocation to St. James’s reflects this. As Arthur noted, “London is London—it’s where exciting things are happening in the art world, and sits in a nexus of activity for emerging and international artists. But the rich history of St. James’s is also extremely important to us.”

Hidden away from the main gallery space is a room of secondary-market artworks available for private viewings. But while blue-chip artworks on the secondary market from the likes of Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso make up half of Saatchi Yates’s business, Phoebe and Arthur’s primary ambition is for young contemporary artists to be given the blockbuster treatment. The husband-and-wife duo are firm about their ambitions to focus on solo exhibitions at the new space.

“We are not interested in testing the market with group shows,” Phoebe remarked. “We only want to show artists who we have 100% faith in and will stay with over a long time.” Casting Phoebe a knowing look, Arthur added, “We’re all-in kind of people.”

Saatchi Yates wants to change the landscape for the young artists that it platforms. For example, the 33-year-old Korean painter Sujin Lee exhibited with Saatchi Yates in early 2021 having never sold a painting in her career. Before long, her works were selling for more than £30,000.

Most artists would only be able to have a show of this scale at their peak, but Saatchi Yates facilitates this for artists at the very beginning of their careers. “In this space in St. James’s, it’s like having a gallery at the scale of the blue-chip market, but we are doing this with much younger artists,” Phoebe explained.

Omar El Lahib, installation view at Saatchi Yates, 2023. Courtesy of Saatchi Yates, London.

For their grand opening, Phoebe and Arthur have brought together 18 large-scale paintings by 37-year-old Lebanese artist Omar El Lahib, who currently works in Cologne. The artist was studying fine art at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf when the couple first discovered him via Instagram. Hanging on the gallery walls is a series of El Lahib’s mesmerizing, night-time dreamscapes.

“We thought, ‘Wow, these starry-filled paintings are like a mix of Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh,’” Arthur explained. “Then Omar told us his inspiration came from a photograph of a red-headed woman he stumbled across whilst scrolling through Facebook one day.” Although El Lahib engages with social media, it is his rigorous academic training and art historical references that make his artworks truly show-stopping.

The couple, who have been together for more than a decade, have always shared a love for art collecting. As the daughter of Charles Saatchi—one of the most influential patrons of late 20th-century British art, and founder of Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea—Phoebe does not underestimate the influence of her father on the couple’s own art world venture. “Together, and with [my] dad, we’ve been looking at emerging artists and student shows for years,” she said. Phoebe and Arthur both worked at Saatchi Gallery, which “has always been about breakthrough artists,” Phoebe said.

Later this year, Saatchi Yates’s program will include the work of TikTok-famous artist BIJIJOO, who is originally from the U.S. and has more than 100,000 followers on the platform. During our interview, Phoebe took out her phone to show some of the artist’s ASMR-style TikTok videos, which reveal an artistic process that involves a lot of airbrushing and scratching of surfaces. Phoebe noted that social media has a “democratizing effect” on discovering art: “Young students can come into our gallery, find the artist online, and see how these paintings are created,” she told Artsy.

With such a strong track record over such a short period of time, the gallery has already become a regular haunt for young collectors. It’s also known for inhabiting hip, temporary spaces, from a French château to Miami’s design district.

Phoebe and Arthur believe that Saatchi Yates represents the artists of their generation: “We are exhibiting the right artists, in the right places, at the right time,” said Phoebe. “For young collectors, this means that they can buy art from their contemporaries. It’s like buying a part of your youth.”

Lucy Howie