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A look at the impressive Charles Saatchi art collection

The value of art, like that of beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. A work that is soul-stirring to one may be anathema to another, and great art is often unappreciated in the lifetime of the artist. With that said, it’s also true that in an ideal world, everyone would have the opportunity to experience all sorts of artistic creations and come to their own conclusions about its value.

The art world today is chiefly populated by the wealthy, if by ‘art world’ we’re talking about those who collect it for private enjoyment. The rest of us go to museums and galleries to see the old and the new; unknown artists become known, more often than not, by virtue of an influential patron who encourages and promotes their careers, patrons such as Charles Saatchi.

Saatchi has been collecting art for about 40 years now, and one group of his beneficiaries is Young British Artists. Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’, which more or less symbolises the YBA movement, is considered a classic (though her mother must have been horrified). Saatchi’s collection also includes the works of many other notable contemporary artists from around the world, and is estimated to be worth at least £30.

With his reputation as a collector and his powerful influence on trends in modern art, most people think it rather strange that when he offered to donate a chunk of his best acquisitions to the British public in 2011, nobody seemed to want it. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the collection was “of huge international importance” and suggested that the Arts Council should accept the bequest, but Arts Council officials wanted to look this particular gift horse in the mouth.

When told that his gift would only be accepted on a selective basis, Saatchi withdrew the offer. He then made a similar offer to the Tate, who turned him down, and to GAC, the Government Art Collection that supplies British art to offices and embassies both in the UK and abroad. To date there have been no specifics reported on how that situation is developing.


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