Charles Saatchi Buys an Exhibition

The British art collector Charles Saatchi has made news after he bought a whole exhibition by the Royal Academy art student James Howard.

The art of success: Saatchi buys student’s entire show
“Such is Mr Saatchi’s standing as a collector that he can make or break an artist, raising profiles and prices. Having made the names of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and other young British artists whose works now command six and seven figures, his activities are viewed as a barometer of the market.” Times Online

I don’t like the fact that big art collectors can influence what people buy or even what artists create, but I’m happy for artists that catch the eye of big collectors. The thing that bothers me is that artists can start to create work to suit the tastes of a major collector, but that’s a criticism of the artist rather than the collector.

How much influence do collectors of art really have over the work we produce? I think if we answered that question honestly, it would be.. “Lots!”. Unless you have an income that is independent of your art making, you think about the people that buy your art. Which isn’t necessarily a really bad thing.. or is it?

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I have read that having a whole collection bought by someone like saatchi is a double edged sword. On the one hand they buy it cheap and then turn around and sell it for HUGE profits (and the artist gets none of that). There is also the exclusivity that puts limits on the artist. On the other it brings them fame and a means to support themselves as artists.

  2. Charles Saatchi is an astute business man and he does pick some interesting artists to buy work from.

    There is the danger though that buying artwork in bulk like stocks and shares devalues the creativity which inspired it in the first place.

    As Oscar Wilde said, you can end up knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  3. @jafabrit

    This set of articles might interest you

  4. Yeah, I’m not sure where I stand on the re-sale of art by living artists.

    Imagine if builders came up with a similar idea, where they get a percentage of the re-sale of all the buildings they make.

    We’re really just selling products. Ofcourse I would never refuse royalties either, but I don’t think artists should be entitled to them.

    If collectors are making money from an artist, it’s his/her reward for risking their money on the artist. And if the art collector is making money, the artist should be able to increase his prices. So everyone is a winner ;-)

  5. The introduction of Droit Suite (French for “Rip Off”) into the UK now means artists are forced into having resale royalties levied on any of their work which resells for over around UK 650 pounds. The collection service can charge up to 25% (although there current rate is about 15%) of this royalty just for processing the payments. The comparison to a builder of houses receiving resale royalties is a good one and shows how unfair and ridiculous the idea is. Most Art Collectors have no influence over the art market in the way saatchi has. Most stand to make a loss on any resale of the millions of relatively unknown artists work that make up the staple diet for rank and file collectors…. but you still have to pay a royalty on the selling price… not the profit with nothing offset for any other losses made on art.

    It should be up to an individual artist to decide how they wish to deal with their work and their customers. If they wish to waive copy right they can but they have no choice in the matter of resale royalties. What other walk of life or business relationship has such a heavy hand of enforced interference from government in the sale of something as innocuous as a piece of art?

    As for C. Saatchi, he is an astute buisiness man who made his first millions in the world of advertising and politics helping to crown Maggie Thatcher as PM back in the 70′s and 80′s. He has helped to sell many lies to the masses including the lie that any old tatt can be revered as great art if he proclames it as such. By all means let the empty headed super rich celebrities be ripped off by such a scam but please can we, the thinking plebs try and reclaim a view of art that trancends that of the great soap seller Mr Saathchi.

  6. hum interesting ed, thanks for the link. I don’t have a problem with a royalty idea in the same vein as writers, playwrights, musicians etc.

    I think it should be a choice rather than force though. I do see earls point though. I guess I would have to explore the consequences of it a lot more before I would say it is a great or bad idea.

  7. As much as I admire Charles Saatchi and what he does for the arts I do sometimes question his motives and the precidents he is setting by using his influence to manipulate the market

  8. As you can tell I’ve been reading up on Charles Saatchi tonight. The man is not brilliant! Everyone paints him out to be the savior of emerging artists. How many emerging artists has he actually bought from on his fodder-rang of an art site? He could buy one work of art per day from an emerging artists and still have mega bucks. Instead he drops several hundred thousand on fading art stars.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Charles Saatchi is the best Art Dealer because he knows how to promote and sell artwork. Anybody that hates on him is jealous of his skills.

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