“It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, hedgefundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and olligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self regard”
– Charles Saatchi
I enjoyed the coincidence of being at the party to launch Charles Saatchi’s latest collection “Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art from Germany” at the same time as he launched into an attack on his fellow collectors who, as he said, “circulate in a giddy round of glass-filled socialising, from one swanky party to another”. It was perfect irony, as we circulated, glass of Champagne in hand, to come across an exhibit by Zhivago Duncan which was called “Pretentious Crap”. Who said the Germans don’t have a sense of humour?
Charles Saatchi’s comments came to mind as I went round the Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Tate Modern. Richter is the world’s most successful artist – last year an astonishing $76.9 million (£49.3 million) worth of his art was sold. Eat your heart out Damien. Trendy oligarchs bought their fair share – Roman Abramovich paid $15.2m (£9.7 million) for one of his “Abstakte Bilder” paintings in 2008. But the most popular of Richter’s paintings is his “Candle” (pictured) of which he has cannily painted 27 versions. One sold for $15.8m (£10.1 million) in 2008. When it first went on sale, no-one bought it, even though the price was only a few thousand. It was interesting to see that hardly anyone at Tate Modern gave it a second glance. But if a dealer tells Roman that it’s a good investment it soon develops an aura of its own.