Charles Saatchi is an art collector/dealer who exercises tremendous amounts of power in the contemporary art market. The simple act of him buying or selling a piece of art can make or break an artists reputation and since establishing himself as a major collector of art in the late 80s he has been able to control and shape the character of modern British art.

Saatchi was born in Iraq in 1943 but his family moved to Britain when he was four to escape persecution. Saatchi made his fortune in advertising. He set up the agency Saatchi & Saatchi with his brother Maurice. the agency became a household name in 1978 with the posterLabour isn’t working” depicting a 100-strong queue of unemployed men and women. This campaign played a significant role in getting Margaret Thatcher into government in 1979. By 1986 the agency was the biggest in the world but that didn’t stop the brothers being ousted in a boardroom coup.

Saatchi begun collecting art in the early 70s and, financed by the fortune he earned in advertising, has now collected over 3000 painting and sculptures. British art became trendy in the early 90s making London the centre for contemporary art and this is largely Saatchi’s doing. For the last decade he has been buying the latest works from young British artists and displaying them in the Satchi Gallery which he set up with his first wife. It is Saatchi who is credited with (blamed for) making a star of Damien Hurst with the purchase of one of his early pieces: A glass box containing a decomposing cow head. More recently he bought Tracey Emin’s ‘Unmade Bed’ for £150,000.

It is estimated that Saatchi spends £2 million a year on artwork and he has become a hugely controversial figure as a result. He has been described as a “human hoover” who buys art solely for his own gain and manipulates the market to add value to his collection. An artist can attain fame and recognition through the simple act of Saatchi buying his/her latest work. On the flipside is Saatchi chooses to sell an artist's work it can have a devastating effect on their career.

Saatchi has recently opened a new gallery on the banks of the Thames (just upstream from the Tate Modern, a gallery that he has openly criticised on numerous occasions.) It will house the worlds largest and most controversial collection of British art.

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