Contemporary art has become the sport of Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites
Adman, Art dealer/Collector Charles Saatchi has written a tirade of negative opinion in the Guardian today, slamming a new generation of art collector as “trendy Oligarchs and Oilgarchs.” Saatchi is implying that the super-rich buy art to impress their friends and increase their status. He added “Being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar.” “It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites and of dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard.” Mr Saatchi added: “Do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art? Or do they simply enjoy having easily recognised, big-brand name pictures, bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead coolth and wealth.” He stated: “My dark little secret is that I don’t actually believe many people in the art world have much feeling for art and simply cannot tell a good artist from a weak one, until the artist has enjoyed the validation of others. “I’ve heard that almost all the people crowding around the big art openings barely look at the work on display and are just there to hobnob.”Nothing wrong with that, except that none of them ever come back to look at the art – but they will tell everyone, and actually believe, that they have seen the exhibition.”
So what do we make of this? It is certainly a case of “the pot calling the kettle black”. This is the whine of a privileged middle-age man who in many ways is Delusional and hyper-arrogant. But what do you expect from the man who packaged and sold Margaret Thatcher to the nation. The fact of the matter is Charles got lucky in the late 1980’s stumbling upon a show at Goldsmiths called Freeze. He had previously collected 20th century modern master works like Dali and made the evolutionary jump around this stage. He bought works from the show which included artists Damien Hirst, Mat Collishaw,Gary Hume,Michael Landy and Sara Lucas. Since this lightbulb moment, Saatchi who had an established gallery in St Johns Wood has opened a series of public galleries which has mounted countless exhibitions .The curator Norman Rosenthal recently said, “It is very difficult to make a good exhibition,” and the real problem is the art world has become so huge. When Charles and I were younger and doing the world of art it used to be much easier to sort it all out.” Rosenthal said Saatchi had put on extremely good shows but also shows that were not so good. “
When it comes to the media, Charles Saatchi has always been a shrinking violet . He almost never gives interviews or makes public statements. I can now see why. The popularity of collecting contemporary art has been part of the fabric of our culture since ancient times. Patrons always followed other patrons and the wealthy have always needed trendsetters to follow. Saatchi has lived a charmed life and along the way has collected three wives, the latest being the delectable Nigella Lawson. He has beautiful homes in London ,The South of France and elsewhere. He has also ranked in the Times 500 richest List in the UK for the past 20 years. Sometimes silence and mystery is a golden rule, for someone in his position, otherwise undermining the efforts of a new generation of contemporary art patrons, begins to sound a bit like sour grapes.
Photo: Charles Saatchi by ROBERT GORDON MC HARG III treatment by ArtLyst 2010