Wednesday 30 November 2016 - Charles Saatchi: a modern Medici? - Barry Venning

The Medici family dominated Florence for generations and Lorenzo de Medici, known as ‘the Magnificent,’ sponsored such artists as Botticelli and Michelangelo. Charles Saatchi has been called a modern-day Medici and, had he been living in Florence in its heyday, he could have bought four versions of Michelangelo's statue of David for the price he paid for Tracey Emin's dirty bed - even allowing for inflation since 1499!

Like the Medicis, Saatchi exercises tremendous power in the international contemporary art market. He can make and break artists' reputations, and somewhat controversially he has defined the character and direction of recent British art.

Research by the British Museum shows that Damien Hirst, Emin and the other shock troops of the Britart movement are paid far more, in real terms, for their works of conceptualism than Michelangelo ever was.

Using the Bank of England's price inflation index, which allows price comparisons to be made back to 1270, Dr Barrie Cook, a British Museum coin expert, has worked out that Michelangelo, one of the greatest masters of the High Renaissance, would only have been paid £40,000 at today's prices for David.
Though it is arguably the world's most famous sculpture, the price pales in comparison to the £150,000 paid to Emin by Saatchi in 2000 for her infamous My Bed, which is now thought to be valued in excess of £1 million.

The Saatchi Gallery was opened by Charles Saatchi in 1985 in order to exhibit his collection to the public, the gallery's current location being the Duke of York's Headquarters off the Kings Road, Chelsea.

In 2010, it was announced that the gallery would be given to the British public, becoming the Museum of Contemporary Art for London.

about our lecturer:

Our lecturer Barry Venning is a historian of British Art and he was the BBC’s script consultant and expert commentator for a 2005 documentary on Turner’s Fighting Temeraire. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary British art and he is currently an Associate Lecturer with the Open University.