Saatchi shocks art with Britpack sale

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The Independent Online
CHARLES SAATCHI, the most high-profile collector of young British artists, is to sell 130 works - about 5 per cent of his collection - including pieces by the most celebrated figures in the Britpack.

Installations by the Turner prize-winners Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread will be offered at auction as well as works by radical sculptors Jake & Dinos Chapman and Ron Mueck in the biggest disposal yet of shock-art.

All proceeds from the sale, which is likely to raise pounds 1m, will go to bursaries for young artists and art schools.

But yesterday's announcement was inevitably accompanied by speculation that interest in young British artists might be on the wane.

Earlier this month at Christie's there was disappointing reaction to the first formaldehyde work by Hirst to come on the market. Alone Yet Together, a Perspex cabinet of 100 fish suspended in formaldehyde solution, failed to sell. Bidding stopped at pounds 85,000, well short of the estimate of pounds 100,000 to pounds 150,000.

Graham Southern, director of contemporary art at Chris-tie's, which will also handle the Saatchi sale in December, said: "Charles Saatchi's action is actually a reconfirmation that the market is strong.

"Even on the night that Damien Hirst failed to sell his installation he sold a spin painting for pounds 54,000. Charles Saatchi is still acquiring contemporary art and has just acquired two more Damien Hirsts."

Money from the sale will go towards sponsoring young artists and provide scholarship bursaries for four London art schools: Goldsmiths', Chelsea, the Royal College and the Slade.

Nearly all of the 97 artists in the sale are still being acquired by Charles Saatchi and are well represented in his collection.

Graham Crowley, head of painting at the Royal College of Art, welcomed the bursary scheme, saying: "The most critical period in any young artist's life is the year that they leave art school, when he or she is attempting to establish their practice and secure a reputation for themselves."

The Saatchi Gallery, started by the advertising agency co-founder in 1985, draws from a collection of about 2,000 paintings, sculptures and installations. A close associate of Mr Saatchi said: "Charles does sell a lot of works from time to time but it doesn't mean he is tiring of contemporary art. You'll find he will go off and buy younger artists."

The Youth

Market

Damien Hirst: The Lovers (spontaneous, committed, detached, compromising) Estimate: pounds 80,000 to pounds 100,000.

Four cabinets containing jars of organs from two cows in formaldehyde. It raises questions about life and death.

Jake & Dinos Chapman: Ubermensch

pounds 10,000 to pounds 12,000.

A towering fibreglass rendition of physicist Stephen Hawking perched in his wheelchair at the edge of a cliff. Hawking's elevated position echoes that of a Nietzschean superman.

Rachel Whiteread: Untitled (Square Sink) pounds 40,000 to pounds 50,000.

One of her best-known works, this sculpture of the underside of a sink solidifies the unperceived space around an everyday object.

Ron Mueck: Big Baby 2 pounds 6,000 to pounds 10,000.

His first work, pictured left, to be offered at auction. Last year he exhibited a replica of his father's naked corpse.

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