Charles Saatchi. Patron, collector, certainly not investor

Written by Charlie Hood Sunday, 30 January 2011 23:04
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The Art of Investment will be a new fortnightly column discussing goings on in the art world with the collector in mind.

Charles Saatchi’s Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997 saw the marketing guru present a retrospective of his extensive collection of the artwork of the ‘Young British Artists (YBA’s)’


Saatchi’s mission didn’t come cheap – his extensive collection of, and investment in, the work of the YBA’s during the Early and mid nineties – allowed him to become the figurehead of a generation defining movement.

saw Saatchi – at great personal cost – staging exhibitions in major institutions in London, New York and Berlin. It was Saatchi bestowing upon himself the praise of becoming the first collector – rather than artist or curator – responsible for creating an arts movement so ubiquitous as to seep into a generation’s collective consciousness.


Saatchi’s tenacity towards (and commitment to) his artists and collection demonstrates the great rewards to be had from investing in contemporary art. Financially, Saatchi’s better judgments have reaped great rewards. Most famously, Damien Hirst’s shark-in-formaldehyde piece The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, commissioned by Saatchi for £50,000 in 1991, sold in 2004 for $8,000,000.


It is, however, Saatchi’s ethical commitment to the artwork in which he invests for which he is known; his investment in Hirst’s practice and career as an artist, rather than an individual piece, belies his status as a collector, and enters the less-auspicious-sounding grey area of ‘Patron’.


In his role as Patron – the title of which, we have to assume he prefers – Saatchi is regarded as one of the great benefactors of contemporary art, single-handedly thawing out a frozen British art scene, and becoming regarded, culturally, as it’s well-fed (Nigella) Godfather. In his role as collector, his astute investments, and trend prediction have seen him reap great rewards financially, through hard work and perseverance in helping market the work of those whose art he invests in.


Works can be brought at any price that can result in a fantastic return of investment – Maurizio Cattelan’s La Nona Ora cost $900,000 in 2001 and sold in 2003 for $3 million. Your humble writer paid £10 for a signed Gilbert and George poster at the British veteran duo’s White Cube show recently; despite it’s mass-production, it’ll be worth a lot more in a few years.


I’m not recommending art as an investment – the potential is there, but it’s rarely free of someone working to put the prices up – you are more importantly, investing in an individual bearing their soul. Conscientiously, the benefits are to be reaped – a sense of investment in the development of contemporary culture – and it’s this that positions the best collectors for an increase in the value of their work.


Think patron, not collector – and certainly not investor.

Charlie Hood graduated in 2008 with a degree in Fine Art. He has worked in different roles at art galleries since then, and has recently set up B.C, an arts promotion company for young artists loving outside London.

Last modified on Monday, 14 February 2011 08:56

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