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From the Stuckist Party Manifesto, General Election 2001: "We do not allow a monopoly on fridges, so why do we allow one on art? The last decade of art in this country has been dominated by the buying power, media manipulation and taste of one man, Charles Saatchi...... Values of integrity, accountability and fairness for the benefit of the wider community must be applied in the art world as well as in general society." More from Manifesto here.
"[Sir Nicholas] Serota has admitted that, because of Saatchi's monopoly, there is a huge gap in the Tate collection."
- The Guardian (29.11.01)
Supercollector - a critique of Charles Saatchi by Rita Hatton and John A. Walker
|CHARLES SAATCHI REPORTED TO OFT|
Regarding the complaints below the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) in a letter from Mr Canavan dated 15 April 2004, concludes, "... we do not have reasonable grounds to suspect that Charles Saatchi is in a dominant position in any relevant market.... we see no grounds for launching an investigation in this case and have therefore closed our file...
GROUNDS FOR COMPLAINT TO THE OFT
Complaints were sent to Mr J Canavan,
Office of Fair Trading, Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8JX, quoting CE/4199/04
or emailed to Phillip.Griggs@oft.gsi.gov.uk
Charles Saatchi has been reported to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) by Charles Thomson, Co-founder of the Stuckists, for an alleged breach of the Competition Act (28.3.04). This has been followed by a number of other independent complaints (below).
For a breach to have occurred two conditions must be satisfied: 1) that there is a trader who is dominant in a particular sector of the market 2) that there has been an abuse of the dominant position wherebye fair competition by smaller competitors has been harmed. This abuse does not have to be intentional for it to be a breach of the act.
That Mr Saatchi is dominant in the area of new contemporary art in this country is widely recognised.
The argument for abuse of that dominant position is as follows. Mr Saatchi bought Stella Vine's painting of Princess Diana Hi Paul Can You Come Over and it was promoted worldwide in the media, along with the artist as a new art star of the future. The impression given was that Mr Saatchi had 'discovered' this unknown artist: it was said that she had never sold a painting, that she didn't think anyone really liked what she was doing and her only training was a few part-time classes at Hampstead School of Art.
In fact she was 'discovered' three years ago when she was first exhibited in Stuckists group show Vote Stuckist at the Fridge Gallery in Brixton, was one of two nominees for the Stuckists Real Turner Prize Show 2001, turned down an offer for her work to be bought on a regular basis by Charles Thomson and her work was transformed when she received tutoring from him in his studio. She was also the founder of the Westminster Stuckists.
Mr Saatchi's dominant market and PR position allowed him to achieve blanket coverage for a version of events which completely ignored her background with the Stuckists.
Had this been known, it would have led to increased interest in the Stuckists as a group where new talent was fostered, and the likelihood of increased sales as collectors hoped to find another future star.
Mr Saatchi's dominant position has led to unfair competition which mitigates against consumer choice and therefore the interest of the consumer.
Reported in Independent
on Sunday here
BBC Radio 4 Front Row,
the LA Times (30.3.04), artdaily.com
(31.3.04) The Times (5.4.04)
sent to OFT by Charles Thomson (Co-founder, Stuckists) 25.3.04. Full
From email received
from Ian Wylie (Liverpool Stuckists) 28.3.04
Email sent to
OFT by Larry Dunstan (Stuckist Photographers) 29.3.04
Email sent to
OFT by Jeffrey Scott Holland (Kentucky Stuckists) 30.3.04
Letter sent to
OFT by Rita Hatton and John A. Walker (not affiliated to Stuckists)
From email received
from Lorden Partial (Wimbledon Stuckists) 1.4.04
Letter sent to
OFT by Remy Noe (Maidstone Stuckists) 1.4.04
Letter sent to
OFT by Peter McArdle (Gateshead Stuckists, Director of Diverse Gallery)
I am the Director of the Diverse Gallery and founder of the independent Gateshead Stuckist artists. As a Stuckist, I am part of a network of independent artists who collaborate in using the identity 'Stuckist' to promote a kind of art and a particular philosophy we hold in common. It is well-known in the art world that we are in direct opposition to the 'Britart' through which Mr Saatchi has made his reputation for over a decade. We have been often derided for our position and this has undoubtedly put off collectors, who feel that our art is an uncertain investment.
That Mr Saatchi, our philosophical and artistic rival, has now chosen as one of his leading artists someone whose artistic origin was as a member of the Stuckist group has major implications - or at least it would do if people knew about it. It would show that the Stuckists movement, far from being an unreliable outsider in the art world, is in fact the place where new star talent can be found.
Mr Saatchi operates in a dominant position in the market not only because of his wealth, but also because of his prestige. He is seen as a pioneer who discovers new talent and is ahead of the pack. This is exactly how he was portrayed yet again by the media, fed by his professional marketing capability. In this case, this pioneering reputation was not deserved, but was effectively stolen from our group. This is a blatant abuse of his dominance to the detriment of ourselves as smaller competitors.
Mr Saatchi operates closely in collaboration not only with media allies but also a small circle of galleries and dealers who effectively form a closed shop. I urge that the complaint against Mr Saatchi is taken to the stage of investigation to set many matters in the art world to rights.
The following quote from The Guardian (29.11.01) illustrates the power Mr Saatchi wields: "[Sir Nicholas] Serota has admitted that, because of Saatchi's monopoly, there is a huge gap in the Tate collection."
Letter sent to
OFT by Christopher Fiddes (Movement for Classical Renewal - not affiliated
to Stuckists)) 2.4.04
Since the opening of the original gallery in St John's Wood in 1985 , Mr Saatchi has played what is arguably a more significant role in the way that art in Britain has evolved than any other person or agency. In order to understand how this has happened it is necessary to understand how the development of art in the time since the beginning of the 20th century has evolved.
At the beginning of the 20th century artists were , in general, assessed by the general public according to the degree of skill apparent in their work. This meant that any intelligent and well intentioned person could form a reasonable assessment of the quality of a work of art without the intervention of a third party. The first two decades of the twentieth century witnessed profound changes in art. For a variety of reasons, artists, influenced greatly by writers on art, began to use an increasingly private and personal means of expression.
By the end of the 1920s art had become so esoteric in its forms that the ordinary man in the street was no longer able to judge for himself the quality of the work confronting him. This change resulted in the emergence of the 'art expert',-first Roger Fry then his pupil Herbert Read, whose books and critical essays attempted to guide the unschooled towards the new criteria of excellence. The downside of this development was the enormous increase in power that this placed in the hands of the newly established critical fraternity. The old direct link that had existed for centuries between the artist and the public had been shattered,--apparently permanently.
The new situation, which has remained fundamentally unchanged until the present day can be compared to the world of the fairytale, "The Emperor's New Clothes", with the critical fraternity all too often playing the role of the two tailors who successfully deluded both the public and the Emperor .
Perhaps we should be surprised that it was to take until the latter part of the 20th century before an individual should emerge who would be able to see how this situation could be turned to highly profitable advantage !
Human vanity is such that very few of us like to admit that ,following the learned explanation by an expert, we still fail to see the merit in an alleged 'work of art'. This has allowed a number of rackets to emerge.
Since graduating art students are always hard up, it has long been possible for a wealthy individual to buy up 'degree show' works at rock bottom prices . If the work is then hyped by the judicious manipulation of the media, reviews, stunts and Chinese whispers, it can thereafter be presented before a sensation seeking public at greatly increased prices. The more so, if the original buyer owns suitable premises for the impressive display of that work , owns the means for the publicising of the work., and has sufficient capital to structure private views for the glitterati fueled by the best quality food and wine. Alas, the mischief does not end there.
If he is also on good terms with another dealer, works can change hands between the two dealers on a regular basis. At each change of ownership, the price, which always goes into the record books, is further enhanced. This means that the market price for the work of an artist becomes artificially inflated, greatly to the advantage of the original purchaser who has already cornered the market in the work of that particular individual. If, at the end of this enhancing process a major museum, like Tate Modern, can be persuaded to acquire the work, the artist's name becomes immortalised and thereafter the original stock and all subsequent works painted by that artist ( under contract to the original buyer by this time ) become worth their weight in gold.
Of course it also helps if the dealer also sits on the board that annually awards The Turner Prize, a promotional device, the purpose of which is to regularly provide the oxygen of publicity to further enhance the status of the chosen artists.
The Art World is ,undeniably, 'big business' (with items associated with the Saatchi Gallery and the closely allied 'White Cube Gallery changing hands for five and six figure sums).
Key artworks are, however, only sold to 'sound' individuals, who can be relied upon not to offer them for re-sale on the open market. For in the event of this happening, it can prove very expensive for the gallery. Usually they have to move in to artificially inflate the bidding so that the market value of the work is seen to be compatible with those other examples of the artist's work still held in the gallery's stock. Clearly, you need to be a dealer of very considerable means to compete with this sort of financial manipulation!
From time to time, works by allegedly 'major artists' fail to sell (or are withdrawn) at auctions when the difference between the stated value and the 'market driven' value becomes too apparent.
Nonetheless, it is widely perceived that it has become highly profitable for galleries specialising in 'Britart' to work in tandem. The assertion in a national newspaper recently that, were Mr Saatchi to withdraw his patronage from the art world, at least another six galleries would go out of business overnight, may well be true !
It is widely believed in the art world that some of what has been outlined above has, for many years, been the policy underlying the success of both Charles Saatchi and his gallery. We should not be surprised at this. Who does not remember the poster that purported to show an unending dole queue (but was actually composed of actors) that brought Mrs. Thatcher to power in 1979 when the Saatchi brothers master-minded her election campaign ? And who can forget the astronomical rise in unemployment that followed the creation of this fiction ?
Clearly, when an enterprise on the scale of the Saatchi Gallery dominates the art market it is able to put into practice stratagems which maintain its pre-eminence, leaving little room for competition from the smaller dealer or gallery. Smaller enterprises are unable to match the outlay to acquire works by 'big names' in the first place. They do not have the same enormous publicity machine working for them. Their limited capital is insufficient to fund the champagne and canapes that guarantee the attendance of the heady mix of critics and celebrities that flock to the Saatchi openings and private views. It may even be that they lack the highly questionable ethos that enables a dealer to capture such a lions share of the market in the first place. Furthermore, the power and income of the Saatchi organization enables them to employ writers of the calibre of Sarah Kent to publicise their shows. Since she is also the art editor of 'Time Out',it is doubtful that her reviews for that publication would manifest the degree of objectivity that many of its readers would expect.
Is the system capable of reform ? In my opening remarks I suggested that the emergence of such monopolies becomes inevitable once the art buyer is robbed of his capacity to make judgements for himself, based on his own observations and convictions. We live in a very 'celebrity orientated' society. High pressure advertising has become a firmly -established part of our world. Conspicuous consumption is the way we persuade the world that we are successful people and 'nice to know'. Doubtless, it would be a better world without any of these things. Most of them, alas, are things it will be difficult to change. But the establishment of something approaching a level playing field would do much to restore the tarnished face of the art market in the Britain of today. It is our hope that your investigations will go a long way towards producing this.
Letter and email
sent to OFT by John Bourne (Wrexham Stuckists) 4.4.04
To say that art is just a thing of the mind is only part of the truth; it is also a trade, no less than other forms of commerce. Successful trading is a matter of personal survival for artists and gallery owners alike. Large amounts of money are invested in art daily, very often as better alternative to saving. Art is, in fact, a multi-million pound business. Therefore any unfair trading in the art market is as serious as unfair trading in any other area of commerce.
I would like to refer to three possible levels of unfair trading in the art market:
The first level occurs when there is a single Dominant Buyer in the art market. If such a buyer is a multi-millionaire and collects large amounts of artwork from many artists, then inevitably, that buyer will be much talked about and the artists whose work is bought will become well known and will therefore command high prices. Artists not patronised will tend to command much lower prices, and this because of the personal taste of one buyer and not necessarily because their work is inferior. They and the galleries representing them will be unfairly disadvantaged and may be unable to compete.
Such a Dominant Buyer practically has the Midas touch. Any artist they take up becomes famous and commands high prices, simply by virtue of being patronised by such a well-known buyer.
A second level of unfair Trading can occur where the Dominant Buyer's wealth and circumstances are such that they are able to promote their artists and the artists' work on a big scale. Promotion is especially effective in the case of art; this is because art is an elusive thing and not easy to evaluate by means of aesthetic analysis. In the case of traditional academic art at least, criteria of correct drawing etc can be appealed to. An expressionist painting on the other hand, may be dismissed as the work of an incompetent dauber, until it has been expertly promoted and thereby transformed into the work of a newly discovered major talent.
Some degree of promotion is permissible but if the Dominant Buyer has the resources to promote their acquisitions worldwide, and practically overnight, those artists and galleries who have no promotional resources are severely disadvantaged. In this case there is gross inequality in promotional power, which amounts to unfair trading.
The third level of unfair trading, as I see it, occurs where the Dominant Buyer promotes their acquisitions in a misleading way, such that other artists or gallery owners are unfairly disadvantaged. The Stuckist movement has been responsible for many innovations in recent years and if a former Stuckist artist and their work is highly promoted as if they were newly discovered and without previous connection with the Stuckist movement, the credit for innovation will go to them and not also to the Stuckists, who cannot afford such promotion, and the credit for the discovery of the artist will go to the Dominant Buyer. The effect of this is serious, because innovation is highly prized today. The result is that Stuckists will have less prominence and less selling power than is their due. The Stuckist movement is a large one, so this amounts to unfair trading on a large scale.
It is to my mind very unfair that the Dominant Buyer is able to benefit overnight from innovations, which have taken others years of struggle to achieve. Such a situation would not be tolerated in industry, where there are patent laws to protect businesses from such abuse.
The unfair trading outlined above may not be intended by the Dominant Buyer and the Dominant Buyer may not even be aware of its existence, but this makes it no less harmful to those who are commercially disadvantaged.
Letter sent to
OFT by Brian Taylor (not affiliated to Stuckists) 5.4.04
I recently read an item in The Independent on Sunday that suggests he finds his artists by exploiting the efforts of underfunded members of the new art movement and enthusiasm of young galleries who receive no financial benefit, or thanks, for their efforts in the process.
Maybe these galleries in question are gauche, maybe they are too trusting of the artists concerned. Possibly it is the artist who is gauche selling their art for a pittance to a hugely rich patron who is capable of snapping up anything and everything that takes his fancy. Certainly, from my point of view, there is a major greed element involved here. I wonder if there is any aesthetic factor involved here in Mr Saatchi's judgement; or is it purely quantity over quality where he exploits the undoubted efforts of the inspired original finders sucking in the gullible artists and works attracted by his well oiled publicity machine, in turn preventing institutions like The Tate form having a chance to acquire these works for the Nation.
Is Mr Saatchi attempting to subvert The Tate's standing through his own collection? Has he some other long term intention? Is he about to do a Henry Tate all over again? Is he holding the art community and the nation to ransom? I can foresee a time where he can mortgage his collection to further his world-dominating ambitions.
Sir Henry Tate of Tate & Lyle constructed the Millbank building, and contributed his collection of 60 Millais', to the Nation over 100 years ago. Is Charles Saatchi going sweeten the bitter pill of his covetous ambitions to develop what is, presently, nothing more than an advertisement for himself by making a contribution to the Nation in the manner of the philanthopic Tate?. I sincerely doubt it unless there is some sort of significant financial inducement involved. I believe Saatchi, with his parsimonious donations, posing as a 'patron' of the arts should be prevented from acquiring any more works from unrepresented and financially challenged artists who may have little or no idea of their own ultimate worth or, more importantly, that of the enduring significance of their art.
Saatchi's monopolistic attitude to the British Art market needs to be curtailed, and constrained, in order that our national institutions be allowed to compete with his domineering publicity-fuelled presence. Submitted as a concerned member of the art-loving public.