Saatchi’s Art Goes Up In Smoke

Charles Saatchi is used to generating headlines for his taste in art. Last week he was in the news because of the destruction of it. The U.K.’s biggest collector of modern art fell victim to a massive fire in an East London warehouse that consumed more than 100 works by some of Britain’s best-known contemporary artists. Saatchi owned much of the art, including Tracy Emin’s piece Everyone I Ever Slept With, From 1963 to 1995 (the names are hung inside a tent) and Jake and Dinos Chapman‘s Hell, a disturbing arrangement of thousands of miniature German soldiers.

The media in the U.K., where Shoptalk was on assignment last week, has used the occasion to deliver a scathing indictment of Saatchi’s judgment and influence in the art world, dismissing his “Britart” generation of artists as a con and publicity ploy. One newspaper illustration showed a pile of ashes and a plaque describing it as Emin’s greatest work. The Daily Mail created an exact replica of Emin’s tent, for which Saatchi reportedly paid £40,000, for £67.50. Dinos Chapman shrugged his shoulders and said he’d easily create another of the Hell tableaux, which he sold to Saatchi for £500,000.

The lost art is valued at about £50 million. Saatchi is said to be distraught over the loss. But Nicholas Logsdail, owner of London’s Lisson Gallery, told the Evening Standard in Thursday’s edition: “It’s tragic for the artists but not so much for Saatchi. Saatchi made a statement on the radio this morning saying he was absolutely devastated. Then he said he was insured for everything for auction prices. He never gets that attached to anything.”