Charles Saatchi: art patron, showman, cultural impresario. To some, he has done more than any other to shake up the contemporary art world and enliven the British scene with remarkable, visionary collections. To others, he is the former ad man whose taste for the bold and the brash, for the controversial and the confrontational, has started a trend for a generation of artwork that rewards shock- value but little else.
The man who set in motion the "Saatchi decade" with a collection that comprised works by both the best known and the most obscure figures in conceptual art can be relied upon to provoke a sharp divergence of views in critical circles the world over. But by now, with the Young British Artists he plucked from anonymity in the early 1990s regarded as undeniable greats, one thing is beyond debate: Mr Saatchi sure knows a good thing when he sees it.
Damien Hirst, one of the first youthful talents to benefit from the dealer's perceptive eye, is now the world's most expensive living artist. Tracey Emin is a name instantly synonymous with creative courage combined with and unshakeable star-quality. The Chapman Brothers, Stella Vine, Mark Quinn: the list goes on and on. But, as Emin herself admitted with characteristic honesty at this year's Venice biennale, the Young British Artists are no longer exactly young. "We're Middle-Aged British Artists now," was her deadpan verdict. "MABAS."
And so what now for the man with the Midas touch who has made his own career out of making the careers of others? Simple: to find the stars of tomorrow.
Mr Saatchi is notoriously media-shy and known to be so reclusive that he eschews the opening nights of his own exhibitions and rarely gives interviews. But today The Independent can exclusively reveal the identities of the up-and-coming artists whom he credits with the talent to transform the art scene in a similar way to the YBAs.
There are six of them, all fresh faces on the contemporary art scene, the youngest in her mid-twenties and the eldest in his fifties. One displays a preoccupation with disturbing images of male sexuality, another priori-tises the elusive quality of "fun" above almost all else. What they all have in common, however, is a raw talent that has convinced the world's most famous collector. Now all he has to do is convince everyone else. To this end, he intends to showcase these works along with established collections at the new Saatchi Gallery, on the King's Road, London, which will give free admission to the public in partnership with Phillips de Pury & Company auction house.
Saatchi intends to champion the work of these "emerging" artists, plucked from across the world, in the 70,000sq ft of exhibition space in the gallery, which is due to open in January. After having sold some of the work of the YBAs who he became so synonymous with a decade earlier, he described how this latest venue would function as a launch-pad for young, previously unprofiled artists. "The new gallery is going to have a clearly defined role to introduce very new art and artists from Britain and the rest of the world," he said.
He added that the gallery was aimed at introducing "as many people as possible to very contemporary art and make it easily accessible to art students and all schools." The new collection includes artists from all over the world, from contemporary Chinese artists as well as Londoners, such as Barry Reigate, a 36-year-old Croydon-born painter. Reigate was showing his work "Flies around the Fury Flotsam" at a group show at the Curator's Base gallery in London in 2005 when Saatchi wandered in and bought his painting, and later acquired three more. His canvases are described as "pop-porn at its best" containing hedonist visions of disembodied breasts and phalluses. …