Saatchi's new sensation will be a windfall for regional galleries

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The Independent Online

First he shocked the art world with the likes of Damien Hirst. Then he grabbed headlines with the exhibition of his "Sensation" collection. Now Charles Saatchi is raising eyebrows again - by giving away his artworks.

First he shocked the art world with the likes of Damien Hirst. Then he grabbed headlines with the exhibition of his "Sensation" collection. Now Charles Saatchi is raising eyebrows again - by giving away his artworks.

The advertising mogul turned art patron, who kick-started the young British art movement, has donated 39 works to lesser-known galleries and museums. A world away from the Royal Academy or his Saatchi Gallery in St John's Wood, the works, worth an estimated £200,000, will appear in locations as exotic as Swindon, Swansea and Belfast.

The museums were chosen in discussions between Mr Saatchi and the National Art Collections Fund, which acted as a conduit for the donations.

The recipients are the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea, the New Art Gallery in Walsall, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Leeds City Art Gallery, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries and the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

The donation includes works by Katherine Dowson, Marcus Taylor, Daniel Sturgis and Keith Wilson.

In the past two years Mr Saatchi has now given away just under 300 works and yesterday he suggested he was going to donate even more. In a statement he said he was delighted to make the gift through the National Art Collections Fund, which distributes works, or grants, to institutions across Britain. "We hope to continue to make gifts to both the Arts Council Collection and the Art Fund, to enable the work of young British artists to be seen and held in public collections across the country," he said.

Jenny Blyth, curator of the Saatchi Gallery, said: "Overall, the hope is to find good homes for as much interesting young British art as possible. You see a lot of young British art in London; it's important also that it's seen regionally."

Sir Nicholas Goodison, the chairman of the National Art Collections Fund, said: "Charles Saatchi's gesture will make a real difference to those regional museums and galleries that are keen to collect contemporary art, but lack the funds to do so. These works will bring great enjoyment to many visitors."

Not all artists are likely to be happy to find themselves donated to lower-profile institutions. Some found that to have works bought up by Mr Saatchi in large numbers and then sold or given away lowered their market value.

But yesterday the galleries were celebrating. Peter Jenkinson, director of the New Art Gallery in Walsall, said that its commitment to living artists had been hampered by budgetary restraints. "In common with many galleries ... we have sometimes lacked the funds with which to make purchases. The Saatchi gift is therefore a wonderful and unexpected windfall, a real boost to Walsall's collection at a moment when - at long last - we have beautiful new spaces in which to show contemporary art."

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