London: “The Art of Chess” at Saatchi Gallery Through October 3rd

September 19th, 2012

Tim Noble and Sue Webster – Deadalive (2012), Saatchi Gallery

Over the past several years, the artists’ studio, RS&A, has commissioned 16 recognized artists to create their own chess sets and boards, allowing them to explore and reconfigure the image of the classic game.  Including sets by Maurizio Cattelan, Tracey EminTom FriedmanDamien HirstBarbara KrugerYayoi Kusama and Paul McCarthy, the full collection is currently on view at Saatchi Gallery in London.

Yayaoi Kusama – Pumpkin Chess (2003), Saatchi Gallery

Paul McCarthy – Kitchen Set (2003), Saatchi Gallery

The “game of kings” has a long-standing relationship with fine art: antique sets and beautifully carved pieces have long been admired as a luxury item, and many of history’s finest artists also considered themselves avid chess players.  Looking at this intimate connection, RS&A has partnered with Hugo Boss and Saatchi Gallery to exhibit their ongoing collection of uniquely commissioned pieces.

Alastair Mackie – Amorphous Organic (2008), Saatchi Gallery

Tom Friedman – Untitled (2005), Saatchi Gallery

Working within the framework of this centuries-old contest of strategy, artists were invited to create a full set of pieces: knights, bishops, kings, queens and pawns, all grounded in their own unique artistic and aesthetic languages.  For example, Damien Hirst’s set of medicine bottles makes express reference to his pharmacological installations.  Another set by Barbara Kruger poses questions to the player as they move each piece.  Yet another by piece by Tom Friedman features miniature versions of some of his best known pieces.


The Art of Chess is a powerful look at the amazing staying power of a game invented 1,400 years ago, which has continued to provide intellectual potency and inspiration for artists into the twenty-first century.

Rachel Whiteread – Modern Chess Set (2005), Saatchi Gallery


Barbara Kruger – Untitled (2006), Saatchi Gallery

All images appear courtesy of RS&A

—D. Creahan

Saatchi Gallery