Charles Saatchi's opinion is important. As an outspoken and pioneering collector, he holds the highest position as tastemaker of our day. A Saatchi exhibition should be treated like the opening credits to a film about the things we will one day appreciate or criticize-- a teaser, a test of the aesthetics which will come to define our generation, willingly or not. And there is the newly-erected temple dedicated to Saatchi’s tastes-- a magnificent colonnade-boasting palace in Chelsea, on the grand Duke of York Square. Even if every exhibition in the new gallery were a tragically huge disaster, Saatchi’s position as king of contemporary art would be maintained. He led the YBA parade of the nineties as grand marshall, ushering in the adoration of golden youths like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. And, with a new space, he has new intentions. Not only will he shepherd the young, audacious, and creative egoists of his stable. No—now he will also embrace the international, the young, beautiful, and political artists from China and the Middle East. Between his big budget and taste for the new, there is no potential for the failure of the new Saatchi Gallery-- there will only be success in greater or lesser degrees. The new Saatchi exhibition, "Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East," is surprising. The show was clearly shaped by the same inclinations which organized the last exhibition of new art from China. Even the first gallery was occupied by a work of the same scale and subject matter of the previous exhibition. In the China show, the room was filled with a replica cityscape constructed of dog chews. "Unveiled" opens with a piece by Marwan Rechmaoui titled "Beirut Caoutchouc"-- a large, engraved rubber floor mat in the shape of Beirut's current city map. The work, about eight by seven meters, communicates in excruciating detail the roads and neighborhoods of Beirut. Why dedicate the same space to a piece about place? Is Saatchi reminding us of the last exhibition, trying to create continuity in a dedicated area for thinking about topography? These intentions are not made clear, though Rechmaoui's piece is arresting in it's stark simplicity and difficult grid. Rechmaoui's second piece in the gallery was one of the best in the exhibition. "Spectre (The Yacoubian Building, Beirut)" is an exact replica of the artist's former apartment building. In life, the apartments were evacuated during the conflict in the summer of 2006, and the model is presented as a memento of the place post-evacuation. Eerily quiet, small, and vacant, the building is a tomb of miniature silences. Constructed from concrete and glass and held together by meager strips of grout and wood, the structre buckles under the weight of its emptiness. The place is delicate, accepting of its abandonment to the point where further human interaction with its construction would command it to fall upon itself. Another one of the show’s most moving works is “Ghost” by Kader Attia. Filling an entire dedicated gallery, the piece consists of rows and rows of human forms— 240 seated women in hoods bowing deep in prayer. It's so quiet, you can almost hear the collective hum of their prayers. Constructed of aluminum foil, they prostrate themselves in blinding silver unison. Facing the same direction, some bow just at the neck, others have their faces down on the floor. Walking from the entrance of the gallery, visitors see the figures from behind, deep in prayer. It is only when you walk along beside the figures that you see the form is empty: the hoods are hollow foil, a vacuum containing nothing but implied shape. If a visitor were to enter from the other doorway, the effect of the piece would be wholly different: the other way, one sees nothing but hundreds of empty hoods, bowed in alignment. Rokni Haerizadeh, a young Iranian painter, creates epic tableaux which bring to mind simultaneously Kitaj, Hockney, and Breughel. His canvasses are so electric with energy and heat, you can hear them. There’s music, yelling, waves lapping. In a diptych titled “Typical Iranian Funeral” he shows the elaborate construction of the affair and the dichotomies of Iranian culture. On one panel, a meal is shared between the close friends and family of the deceased. Tables divide people perhaps according to their relationships—friends at one, family at another, colleagues at yeat another. The affair is civil, quiet, and wholly respectful. The second funeral panel shows the public rituals of mourning: the rented loudspeakers, mourners for hire. This is a society with intrinsic difficulties, visible in the most human and common daily rites. In “Shomal (Beach at the Caspian)”, Haerizadeh paints another diptych—this one showing a typical day at the seaside. In one panel, men dance and play in the sea, taking in the sun, resting on the sand in their swimming trunks. In the second panel, the men are being served by women strolling in burkha and overcoats, hand-feeding them watermelon, unable to feel the sun on their skin. Brush strokes are fluid, evoking the lapping waves of the sea and the idle sentiment of the men, unaware of the inequalities they proliferate. There are so many more powerful works in this exhibition, I could not possibly write about them all. Suffice it to say that Saatchi has succeeded in this endeavor. Here we are finally presented with some revelatory insights, the illustrations which ought to accompany the biased reports from the BBC. These works together form a humanist reading of the crises in the Middle East. For once in a while, this is a contemporary exhibition free from the constraints that often hold down new work: consumerism, celebrity, and the position of artist as celebrity. These young, new artists are original, witty, and political. Perhaps Saatchi has succeeded in finding new talents for his post-YBA stables after all. "Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East" runs at the Saatchi Gallery through May 6.