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Mr Saatchi's surprising offer

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Will Gompertz | 14:11 UK time, Thursday, 1 July 2010

Charles Saatchi has announced today that he is giving artworks worth more than £25m to the nation, plus his gallery. He has also said that he intends to change the name of the gallery to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) when he retires.

The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone LivingThe gallery's statement says that the "Saatchi Gallery is currently in discussion with potential government departments who would own the works on behalf of the nation." What is a "potential government department"? I spoke to the Department for Culture Media and Sport, and it was the first that department had heard of the offer.

In fact, everybody I spoke to was non-plussed by the announcement - including those at Tate, who might consider that they already run the nation's contemporary art museum.

The offer raises several questions, such as: Saatchi might be giving the nation his collection and gallery, but is the nation - the government - accepting it?

I'm off to find out.

Update 1736: A response from Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport:

"Charles Saatchi has built up a collection of huge international importance. His decision to gift these works to the nation is an act of incredible generosity and I'd like to thank him on behalf of the Government. Philanthropy is central to our vision of a thriving cultural sector and this is an outstanding example of how Britain can benefit from individual acts of social responsibility."


  • Comment number 1.

    Call be a skeptic, but I'm sure it will be the same old story of tax, and how to escape it which is at the heart of any "donation" to the Nation. Those Labour connections are seriously useless now aren't they?

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    I went to the Saatchi Gallery a few months ago and it's a really nice space, the outside areas are pleasant too. I visit the Tate a lot and I think the Saatchi / MoCa is complimentary not in competition.

    If it can be run for the country and remain free surely it's something positive so I'm surprised people aren't more pleased, I certainly am.

  • Comment number 4.

    The Saatchi Gallery is one of my absolute favourites. And despite my continual attempts to find something I like at the Tate Modern, the Saatchi collections seem much more successful at hitting the perfect balance between contemporary, ground-breaking and popular. It always leaves me awestruck - and often giggling.
    I loved a piece from the Korean exhibition, with 3D human figures squished to look like reflections from a distorted fairground mirror. Very clever.
    The Tate Modern takes itself very seriously - and I'm always more impressed by the building than the art.
    I'm happy for the Saatchi Gallery to be our Museum of Contemporary Art, whatever the owner's reasons.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Every one knows that Saatchi has been trying to unload much of this 'artwork' over the years and failed, and then was desperately unlucky to have lost some of it in the accidental warehouse fire.
    He's come to the obvious conclusion that its worthless (or worth less than what he paid - dramatically), and so is trying to up the worth of it, and the pieces he retains by taking the ultimate mickey out of everyone and renaming his gallery MOCA. (I can think of a few words that I might replace contemporary with). I had no idea that individuals could create their own Museums, I though that was a thing of government?
    Anyroad, if it works good on him. We should applaud enterprising entrepreneurs. Talentless artists on the other hand...
    Then again is he still haggling with the insurers and trying to avoid putting pieces on the market to find their true worth? doubt it but one should ask.

  • Comment number 7.

    5. At 5:12pm on 01 Jul 2010, 40yearoldprofessional wrote:
    Luluhibou, unfortunatley you're not a skeptic, you're just a miserable git.

    Actually, I'm not a miserable git, I actually work in the Arts charity sector, and I understand the motives of Saatchi in trying to establish a future for his collection as well as I understand the motives of his accountants. My knowledge is based on experience. I am, in fact a fan of much of the work in his collection. That still entitles me to be skeptical.

  • Comment number 8.

    Dear 40yearoldprofessional - a person is entitled to their opinion without being called a "miserable old git".

    It might be an idea to learn to use a spellchecker before you call people names, especially if you go under the title of "40yearoldprofessional".

    As it is, you sound quite the opposite i.e unprofessional.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm rather confused by the coverage of this. We are told that the 'art' is being given to the nation and then the reporter on the TV news wibbles on about a gallery in London and the date 2012 gets mentioned.

    If this is supposed to be part of the cultural legacy of the Olympics the gallery sould be somewhere accessable to the WHOLE nation, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle or Edinburgh, not stuck with the lemmings who think London should get everything!

  • Comment number 10.

    Luluhibou has it backwards One of the reasons the rich own art is because owning it offers a huge tax break. By gifting the art Saatchi is not only losing the value of this art but also the associated tax breaks that come with owning it.
    And surely the BBC has a responsibilty not to mislead people. Printing comments like those gives gravitas to notions that simply aren't true. The BBC should be just as stringent with its commentators as it would with its own reporters. If I had made a huge gift to the country and someone suggested that I ahd done it purely for selfish reasons I would very tempted to sue the person that made the comment as well as the media that chose to publish those comments.

  • Comment number 11.

    in the accidental warehouse fire.

    Maybe his overheads are getting him down..................

  • Comment number 12.

    It's nice to see people who believe in charity. Unfortunately, most charitable actions by those who are capable have ulterior motives, I'm not saying ALL of them, I'm just saying most of them. Charles Saatchi is a shrewd businessman, not a bad person but I'm sure he is aware of the repercussions of his action, whether profitable or not.

    I agree with Luluhibou. Today in the art world, dealers are businessmen. They see things from a perspective of profit and loss, good vs bad investment rather than finding the next Van Gogh. And even then, that Van Gogh must be able to sell, sell sell.

    For those of us who are in the Art game, it is very hard to believe Mr. Saatchi's intentions were purely based on generosity, if such a thing ever existed in business.

  • Comment number 13.

    anthony rose

    ''One of the reasons the rich own art is because owning it offers a huge tax break. By gifting the art Saatchi is not only losing the value of this art but also the associated tax breaks that come with owning it.''

    Intriguing. I have failed to find any reference to this elsewhere. Care to throw out a link for verification?

  • Comment number 14.

    Should I take my stinky old matress to the tip - or should I declare it to be art, value it at £1M, donate it to the nation and thus reduce my death taxes?

  • Comment number 15.

    TellingBone if you are an artist, or rather judged to be a worthy artist by people who are willing to pay big money for things then yes you can.
    If you are not then people will just think you have a urinary problem and will call social services to get you some care.

    As for Pendlemac:
    The gallery already exists in London. It's in London where Saatchi lives, where the largest number of tourists are, where the majority of other major galleries are. There are over 7 times as many people living in London than Birmingham, 18 x Birmingham, nearly 38 times more in Newcastle and nearly 16 times as many as Edinburgh.
    If you want art in other parts of the country then you pay for them and then donate them to Grismby town council. There are plenty of great galleries all over the country, don't worry. Edinburgh for example has National and Portrait Galleries of their own.

    'cultural legacy of the Olympics'
    Yes, the LONDON Olympics.


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