He's one of the world's most prolific art collectors but has remained fiercely private. Here Charles Saatchi reveals some of thoughts on life, art and women…
21:45 GMT, 17 March 2012
Charles Saatchi first came to public attention when he co-founded the
Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency in 1970.
Today, he is known as
one of the world’s most prolific collectors of art – and as husband to
television cook and writer Nigella Lawson, his third wife.
remains intensely private, his new book answers questions from readers
and journalists to reveal highly original – and occasionally startling –
observations on life, art and women . . .
Charles Saatchi is a prolific art collector and is married to Nigella Lawson
Do you believe in miracles
I left school with two O-levels, drove a delivery van in Willesden, worked in a packaging plant in Brooklyn, as a busboy in a bar in New York, petrol pump attendant in Missouri, telesales and then shoe shop salesman in Los Angeles and a voucher clerk in a small London advertising firm, after being rejected for an interview by all ten of London’s top agencies . . . Oh yes, I do believe in miracles.
Do you believe in the Ten Commandments
An overrated lifestyle guide, unsustainable and largely ineffective, only succeeding in making people confused and guilty. For example: You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his house, nor his servant nor his ox, nor his donkey etc.
This was obviously a no-hoper. Coveting is all everyone does, all the time, every day. It’s what drives the world economy, pushes people to make a go of their lives, so that they can afford the executive model of their Ford Mondeo to park next to their neighbour’s standard model. And who would want to be married to someone who nobody coveted
How do you feel about women spending 1,000 on a pair of shoes or 2,000 on a handbag
I once thought it best not to bother putting a stop on a wife’s stolen credit cards, on the basis that the thieves couldn’t possibly spend money as fast as she did.
What are you most embarrassed by
The hideousness of the contem-porary art world. Being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar. It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedgefundy, Hamptonites; of trendy Oligarchs and Oiligarchs.
They were found nestling in their superyachts together in Venice for last year’s spectacular Art Biennale. Venice is now on the calendar of this new art world alongside St Barts at Christmas and St Tropez in August, in a giddy round of glamour-filled socialising, from one swanky party to another.
You seem quite dismissive of most art experts, curators and critics. is this just based on arrogance or experience
Artistic credentials are au courant in the important business of being seen as cultured, elegant and, of course, stupendously rich. Do any of these people enjoy looking at art Do they simply enjoy having easily recognised, big-brand name pictures bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead cool and wealth.
Their pleasure is to be found in having their lovely friends measuring the weight of their baubles, and being awestruck. It is no surprise then, that the success of the uber art dealers is based on the mystical power that art now holds over the super-rich. The new collectors, some of whom have become billionaires many times over through their business nous, are reduced to jibbering gratitude by their art dealer or art adviser who can help them appear refined, tasteful and hip, surrounded by their achingly cool masterpieces.
Not so long ago, I believed that anything that helped broaden interest in current art was to be welcomed; that only an elitist snob would want art to be confined to a worthy group of aficionados. But even a self-serving narcissistic show-off like me finds this new art world toe-curling for comfort. In the fervour of peacock-excess, it’s not even considered necessary to waste one’s time looking at the works on display.
Now that you are in your 60s, what are the tell-tale signs that age has crept up on you
Your back goes out more than you do. Your knees buckle but your belt won’t. Everything hurts, and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work.
Do you have a party trick Not attending.
Was it vanity overcoming your gluttony that made you lose all your fat on your ‘nine-eggs-a-day-for-nine-months’ diet
Yes. And discomfort. One drawback I can chronicle about having large wobbly thighs, is painful chafing. A particularly unpleasant memory still haunts me. I was in Bangkok airport, which is large and requires much traversing. My upper thighs were being chafed unmercifully and I was desperate to locate some talcum powder to ease my distress.
No Boots or any other chemist in sight. All I could find was an Estee Lauder talc, only available in a bumper-size Christmas gift container and at an extraordinary price. I handed over my remaining Thai baht and poured the talc down my pants. Bliss! As I manfully strode towards the boarding gate I was surrounded by armed police and sniffer dogs, attracted to the trail of white powder I was depositing with every step.
With your track record of two divorces, what advice would you give a friend whose marriage is in difficulty
Wives make excellent housekeepers. They always manage to keep the house. Boom boom!
Tell me an inside secret about the art world
Do you like girl groups or boy bands
If you mean groups such as Suga-babes, Girls Aloud, Pussycat Dolls, Atomic Kitten, All Saints, Mis-Teeq, occasionally they make a track that’s OK. But if, like me, you were enslaved by the mistresses of the genre, The Supremes, Shirelles, Chantels, Marvelettes, Crystals, Ronettes, Martha And The Vandellas, your ears are deaf and your eyes blinkered to the charms of the present crop.
What is the best horror movie
Celeb Big Brother, which is only more horrifying than Pleb Big Brother. They both seem scarier than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and certainly more ghoulish.
You don’t seem to have much of a social conscience. Shouldn’t privileged people like you do something to make the world a better place
Trying to make the world a better place is usually the province of those who want to feel good about themselves. So I may be a disappointing person in many ways, but at least I have never fostered grand designs for social engineering, so beloved of concerned types who want to shape the world and who mostly just mess up people’s lives.
Meaning well is not the same as doing good. For example, if you were a local councillor with a burning desire to save the planet, wouldn’t it be better to start by concentrating on having the lifts on the local estate working and not stinking of urine You would hopefully get around to little projects before you set about polishing your Green credentials by obliging everybody to separate rubbish appropriately, under the threat of a 1,000 fine for miscreants.
What’s the most useful lesson life has taught you
Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
You have regularly been savaged by critics. How do you cope with that
Nobody does criticism like John Simon, the illustrious New York film and theatre commentator. Here’s his charming review of Elizabeth Taylor as Katherina in The Taming Of The Shrew: ‘Just how garish her commonplace accent, squeakily shrill voice and the childish petulance with which she delivers her lines, my pen is neither scratchy nor leaky enough to convey.’
I am obviously delighted he doesn’t cover art for a British newspaper.
Why do almost half of all marriages fail
Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change.
How many women have you slept with None who wouldn’t deny it.
What did you give your children for Christmas
A badge for their blazers. ‘Be alert . . . the world needs more lerts.’ They demanded something more befitting their status as discriminating, elegant teenagers. But it’s OK for little girls to whine. They are practising to be women.
How would others describe you
Do you believe in love at first sight
Love may be blind, but marriage is often an eye-opener. I go along with my favourite philosopher, Cher: ‘The trouble with some women is that they get all excited about nothing – and then marry him.’
What was the most hurtful thing a girlfriend told you when she dumped you
She came up with some real corkers. ‘The thought that terrifies me most is that someone may hate me the way I loathe you.
‘What you lack in intelligence you more than make up for in stupidity. Someday you will find yourself, and you will wish you hadn’t. I worship the ground that awaits you, you snake.’ I was so impressed that I asked for another chance, which she wisely rejected.
What do you think of The Tate’s Turner Prize
As the old saying goes, all anybody needs to know about prizes is that Mozart never won one.
Do you take pleasure in revenge
Revenge is deeply pleasurable. But it can come about in many forms. Nobody likes burglars, muggers and fraudsters but theirs is a career choice and they are presumably prepared to be incarcerated if they are caught.
We can find a small grain of comfort in the certainty that thieves usually end up leading miserable lives, even if they believe it will be just lovely living on the Spanish Riviera.
Wouldn’t you rather have passed away than exist on the Costa del Sol surrounded by the cream of South London gangsters with endless rounds of golf and sangria, eating tapas and going lobster red in the blistering heat in the company of other psychopathic dullards
What kind of person spends 2 on a bottle of mineral water
What’s your advice on dealing with unhelpful people
Try to never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.
Which human being has done the most good
Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records in 1952 in Memphis Tennessee. Discovered Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty.
How do you feel about women who wear fur
People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s safer to harass rich women than a motorcycle gang.
Are winners in life people who always put themselves first
Most of the ‘winners’ I’ve met certainly don’t put themselves last. And they rarely have low self-esteem issues. As one wife of mine said: ‘We had a lot in common. I loved him and he loved him.’ This hasn’t stopped my children giving me the ‘loser sign’ as they see me approach.
What’s the greatest lesson life has taught you
If you don’t adore yourself unconditionally why should anyone else However unappealing you may be, there will be somebody somewhere who finds you simply wonderful.
Charles Saatchi 2012. Be The Worst You Can Be: Life’s Too Long For Patience & Virtue is published by Booth-Clibborn Editions, priced 9.99. To order your copy at the special price of 8.99 with free p&p, please call the Review Bookstore on 0843 382 1111 or visit MailShop.co.uk/books.