Money for old rope (expect a big run on toilet paper art)

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The art world has often been accused of paying money for old rope. Now the millionaire collector Charles Saatchi has forked out £4,000 for a 70ft length of the stuff to be exhibited at his latest exhibition, New Blood, which opens this week.

The art world has often been accused of paying money for old rope. Now the millionaire collector Charles Saatchi has forked out £4,000 for a 70ft length of the stuff to be exhibited at his latest exhibition, New Blood, which opens this week.

The rope itself is not all it seems. Artist Matt Calderwood bound tightly twisted strips from 54 toilet rolls - roughly one mile long - together to create the thick cord which hangs from the ceiling of London's Saatchi Gallery, gathering in a coil on the gallery's floor.

The 29-year-old looks set to be in the next wave of artists to feel the force of the Saatchi effect as the notoriety of appearing in his collection provides a springboard for fame, as well as a spiralling effect on the asking price of future works.

The stripper-turned-painter Stella Vine recently found the value of her works doubled virtually overnight when two controversial paintings - one of a blood-stained Diana, Princess of Wales, called Hi Paul, Can You Come Over and another of the heroin addict Rachel Whitear - were bought for New Blood, which opens to the public on Wednesday.

Figures obtained by The Independent On Sunday show the extent to which patronage from the former advertising guru can boost the value of an artist's work. The figures show the sums Mr Saatchi first paid for a number of then fledgling artists - and what their work goes for now. It shows as much as an 80-fold rise in value.

Ron Mueck who was encouraged by Mr Saatchi to begin working as an artist, sold his first work to the collector for £3,000. The inclusion of his eerily lifelike naked figure Dead Dad in the Sensation exhibition in 1997 helped to make him a major name in BritArt. New works fetch as much as £250,000.

His promise was first spotted when Mr Saatchi visited the studio of Paula Rego, where he saw a sculpture of a young boy by Mueck, who was a model maker for films and commercials at the time.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster - noted for their sculptures and neon installations - were bought by Mr Saatchi in 1997 for £3,000, direct from their studio before they had a dealer. Since then, their work has reached £119,000 at auction in New York, while twin new works being shown in New Blood - Puny Undernourished Kid and Girlfriend From Hell - were bought for £80,000.

An aide to Mr Saatchi pointed out that his ability to spot talent was a double-edged sword, because it also pushed up the price he has to pay for further acquisitions.

"Charles has been hugely successful at giving young artists a firm platform, and as such their prices have appreciated considerably," he said. "There is, however, a downside in that he has to pay the current prices which in some cases are very high."

Damien Hirst, one of the artists championed by Mr Saatchi, had a public falling out with the collector and bought back a number of works last year for an undisclosed sum.

In an interview, he said: "[Mr Saatchi] only recognises art with his wallet ... he believes he can affect art values with buying power."

Mr Saatchi is known to scour small galleries and art college shows to snap up works where he sees potentialto feed his collecting instincts.

Matt Calderwood was delighted with his inclusion in the exhibition and the renown that his association with the collector would bring. "If it wasn't for Charles Saatchi, you wouldn't talk to me," said Calderwood, who earns his living as an art handler, helping to install and transport artworks for galleries.

New Blood is at the Saatchi Gallery, County Hall, London from 24 March to 4 July

The Saatchi Effect

Who? Cecily Brown. Paints large, colourful abstracts.
What Saatchi paid: £700 for a painting from her degree show in 1997.
What it's worth now: Her work has fetched £55,000 at auction in New York.

Who? Tim Noble and Sue Webster. Multimedia artworks.
What Saatchi paid: £3,000 in 1997.
What it's worth now: Work has made £119,000 at auction in New York.

Who? Grayson Perry. Turner Prize-winning transvestite potter.
What Saatchi paid: Range of pots in 2000, costing £4,000 to £6,000 each.
What they are worth now: Saatchi recently paid £38,000 at auction.

Who? Michael Raedecker. Creates paint and embroidery landscapes.
What Saatchi paid: Under £1,000 each for Goldsmiths College degree show works.
What they are worth now: Work has reached £50,000 at auction.

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