Saatchi's bulk purchase puts artist on map

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CHARLES SAATCHI, one of the most influential collectors of contemporary art, has made a young artist's reputation.

A day before Simon Callery's show opened in west London this week Mr Saatchi walked into the Anderson O'Day Gallery and bought all five paintings. He paid some pounds 20,000 - getting a discount for taking the lot.

Mr Saatchi's artistic appetite had been whetted last month on spotting Callery's contemplative abstracted landscapes at the newly opened Cubitt Street Studios, near King's Cross.

Prue O'Day, of the Anderson O'Day Gallery, said: 'He came in and was staggered by the work, asking, 'why haven't I seen him before?' '

Callery, 32 and a graduate of Cardiff College of Art, said: 'He's someone who really does know what he's looking at. He spent nearly an hour at the gallery. He wanted to look at the work very carefully, see it in different light . . . He did the business in the back of the gallery, but I could tell by the way he was responding . . . that he obviously enjoyed the paintings.'

Despite the sale, Callery has to leave his Docklands studio, originally exempted from business rates, because of an pounds 8,000 bill for next year.

Such is Mr Saatchi's standing, there is an assumption that when he recognises a talent, the artist is made. But this purchase does give a boost to a market bruised by recession. However, although others are taking a break from collecting, Mr Saatchi has been buying constantly. He gave Britons their first glimpse of some of today's most respected Americans - the scribblings of Cy Twombly and minimalism of Donald Judd; also, the outrageous Neo-Pop artist Jeff Koons and Surrealist Robert Gober, subject of a show at the Serpentine Gallery this month.

More recently, Mr Saatchi has concentrated on younger British artists. He has been known to snap up 20 works in one go, relying on gut feeling, according to sources close to him.

Among most recent 'discoveries' was Damien Hirst, best known for a sculpture involving a rotting cow's head in a pool of blood and a box of thousands of maggots.

Another is Marc Quinn, whose sculpture with nine pints of the artist's blood is exhibited in the latest show at the Saatchi Gallery in north-west London. Despite largely adverse press criticism, that show has attracted about 8,000 people, excluding parties from schools and colleges.

However, just as Mr Saatchi can make a career, they say he can break one too. The art world gets edgy when he sells, questioning his motives or accusing him of being a glorified dealer. He sells as he buys, in bulk.

Defenders argue that a private collector is not accountable and by showing his art in his gallery he is doing more than most.

Room with a view, page 17

(Photograph omitted)