When Charles Saatchi fell out with the landlords of London’s County Hall in 2005— a dispute that ended in court—the collector took the setback in his stride. He opened the new Saatchi Gallery on the King’s Road in Chelsea in October 2008, hoping that it would attract “well over one million visitors” a year.
The Art Newspaper’s survey of attendance figures (pp23-29) confirms that Saatchi has hit that target, tempting 1.2 million to visit. “The Revolution Continues: New Art from China” and “Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East” attracted 4,139 and 3,828 people a day respectively. The gallery uses an automatic counter. This made them the first and third most visited shows in the UK, ahead of the Royal Academy and Tate Modern’s exhibitions.
Saatchi said: “We have the advantage in that all our exhibitions are free.” (The auction house Phillips de Pury sponsors free admission.) The collector says that he is particularly proud of the gallery’s education programme. “There’s always seven to ten school groups every day,” he said.
Saatchi organised two of the world’s top six shows of contemporary art held outside New York, where the Museum of Modern Art is a veritable blockbuster production line. Only the National Art Centre, Tokyo, bettered “The Revolution Continues” with its media arts festival. In the UK, only the “Banksy effect” in Bristol stopped Saatchi securing a top one and two. Already for 2010 Saatchi’s “Abstract America” show has averaged about 4,000 visitors a day.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Charles Saatchi, the comeback king'