Chess Gets the Artistic Treatment in a New Saatchi ShowSeptember 3, 2013
Since the new Islamic art galleries opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last fall, one of the most popular objects on display has been a chess set dating from 12th-century Iran, one that looks surprisingly modern because the pieces are highly abstracted. The Shah (king), for example, is represented by a large throne.
Faced with designing chess sets today, contemporary artists like Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan and Rachel Whiteread naturally look to their own quirky vocabularies. Mr. Hirst recently created a set composed of pills, bottles and other medical equipment; Ms. Whiteread made one fashioned from squares of carpeting and dollhouse furniture, and Paul McCarthy used objects from his kitchen, including a coffee grinder and ketchup bottle.
Sixteen of them will go on view at the Saatchi Gallery in London from Saturday through Oct. 3. Called “The Art of Chess,’’ the show originated at Somerset House in 2003 and has since traveled around the world, adding more sets at each stop. For this iteration, the British duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster will show a new, “Woodland” chess set, hand-carved from a tree stump with bronze pieces based on their collection of mummified animals. The kings and queens are squirrels; the pawns, frogs.