The artist Richard Wilson has made his reputation and his fortune from his discovery that oil is a good reflective surface. His artwork 20:50 where a room seems to be half-filled with oil, reflecting the walls, windows and ceiling of the room is a favourite of Charles Saatchi’s- it has appeared in all of Saatchi’s galleries over the years- and is now installed in the space in the basement of the Saatchi Gallery in Duke of York’s Square which until recently was occupied by the highly entertaining installation of waxwork figures of ancient crones in motorised wheel-chairs who played a never ending game of dodgems.
Children loved the wheel-chair dodgems and they seem to love 20:50 as well; I viewed it last week during half term when the gallery was full o school kids and they seemed to be
fascinated by it. I wondered why the surface of the oil wasn’t littered with sweet wrappings- at that age i don’t think I’d have resisited the tempation to see what would happen if I
threww something onto the oil.
Tonight I’m at the Saatchi Gallery to hear Richard Wilson talk about his art. His aim, he tells us, is to challenge our preconceptions of architecture. He spoke with great intelligence and lucidity and convinced even a huge sceptic like me to seek out his work wherever I can find it.
This video clip shows the artist talking about 20:50 with a brief glimpse at the artwork itself.
After the talk I asked him about the conundrum of the sweet papers. He told me that the oil absorbs dust and most pieces of debris and that one bonus for him is that when an installation is dismantled, the bed will be full of coins! By the way- although Richard Wilson didn’t admit this on the night, the oil is in fact only two or three inches deep. My guess is that it is contained in a huge plastic tray supported by beams.