Novelty Chess


Written by Jade French
30 Sunday 30th September 2012

Top image: Jake & Dinos Chapman, 2003

Chess is a game of strategy, not a game of chance. You have to sit and think, preferably with a furrowed brow, chin rested in hand and a thick NHS prescription glasses and suit combo. The current Saatchi Gallery exhibition The Art of Chess explores the game and its continuing influence on art with Yayoi Kusama, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Damien Hirst all reimagining chess sets and their place in the artistic mind.

In fact some of the worlds leading chess players (Anish Giri, Peter Leko, Wanghao, Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez Perez), even rolled down the the Saatchi Gallery today to compete with the custom made chess sets.

So far, so esoteric. But what did Saatchi miss?

The 'OJ Simpson Trial' Set


What is one to do when confronted with a case which has been described as the most publicised criminal trial in American history? Make a chess set out of it! It's lucky that chess is such an old and mighty game otherwise this might seem like someone is trivialising... especially with all that gold lamé.

The 'Progressive Super Mario' Set  


Super Mario and Luigi take their place as King and Queen on this brightly coloured chess board. You might think the creators of the board might be more inclined to follow gender stereotypes and have Princess Peach and Mario as the ruling class, but instead they've given that honourable role to the oft-overlooked other Mario brother. Far from being the 'other' sibling, in the world of chess the creators have given him a fitting part. Green L, much like Queen Boadicea before him, is quite the freedom fighter: "Luigi is willing to listen to both sides of the story before resorting to violence, and has devoted his life to helping the weak and oppressed".


The 'Throw Enough Mud at the Wall' Sets

This chess set above is a homemade work of art. Although a well thought-out pairing of the girly (Disney princesses, fluffy puppies and that stalwart of goodness, Mickey Mouse) and boyish (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain America and Magneto) the creators of this could have taken a leaf out of Mario's book and mixed up the go-to gender stereotypes a bit more!

The chess set below is an actual piece of art and one which Saatchi didn't miss. Designed by artist Mauricio Cattelan the hand painted porcelain figures representing people he admires and despises like 'White King' Adolph Hitler and 'Black King' Martin Luther King. Other 'baddies' include Rasputin, Donatella Versace and Stalin. Sigmund Freud is on both sides. And the figure next to Hitler looks suspiciously like Voldemort, although it's more likely to be Dracula.

The 'Down it, Fresher!' set

Watch out pre-drinkers everywhere. Soon Beer Pong will be over-taken by Beer Chess. If you thought 'Ring of Fire' was a time consuming drinking game, think again as the more you drink the less your naturally strategic mind will be able to keep the Castles straight from the Queens from the little horsy one.

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