The Saatchi Gift

William Langely in The Telegraph writes "that last week's announcement that Charles Saatchi, the adman turned art collector, is giving his £25 million gallery to the nation was remarkable for more than its generosity. The Saatchi fortune was made during the phenomenal rise of the brothers' advertising firm into the industry's first global mega-agency. The ideas that flowed from the Saatchis' fertile minds – "Labour Isn't Working" and the "Pregnant Man" campaign for the Health Education Council – made them the talked-about force in marketing. Born in Baghdad to Iraqi-Jewish parents, the boys had, from the beginning, a sense of being outsiders that nourished their creative instincts. It was through his first wife, Doris Lockhart, that Saatchi became interested in contemporary art. By 1985, he had his own gallery, and was snaffling up prime works on the scale of the Medicis. The cash-strapped London arts scene had never seen the kind of financial firepower that Charlie brought to the marketplace, and the whiff of Leftist disdain, even alarm, hung in the air. Yet Saatchi's support for contemporary art – and, in particular, young British artists such as Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and the thankless Hirst, has had a healthy effect, bringing lesser-known work into the mainstream, and created a thriving field where there was previously only scepticism and condescension. Even Brian Sewell, once Saatchi-basher-in-chief, has mellowed. Last year, he confessed: "Having long been among the most doubting of Saatchi's critics… I must argue that without assistance from any public funds… he has single-handedly taken over one prime and vital duty of Tate Modern – to keep us abreast of contemporary art elsewhere. I can think of no earlier collector of then contemporary art… who has done so much to achieve this end." In 2003, the Saatchi collection moved to London's old County Hall, and, two years ago, into the 70,000sq ft Duke of York's HQ building in Chelsea. It is the 200 core works here, including Emin's famous bed, that Saatchi has given to the nation. After he retires, the gallery will be renamed The Museum of Contemporary Art, thus removing Saatchi's name from his own creation. A typically modest touch? Or another cry for attention"?