Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Saatchi Draws Blood with Savage Attack on His Critics; GALLERY OWNER BREAKS HIS SILENCE: 'I AM BEING CAST AS A PANTOMIME VILLAIN'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Saatchi Draws Blood with Savage Attack on His Critics; GALLERY OWNER BREAKS HIS SILENCE: 'I AM BEING CAST AS A PANTOMIME VILLAIN'

Article excerpt

Byline: LUKE LEITCH

HE IS famed for his fortune, his art collection and his marriage to Nigella Lawson but, perhaps most of all, Charles Saatchi is renowned for his intense secrecy. His latest show, New Blood, sparked outrage and condemnation thanks to works such as Stella Vine's portrait of apparent overdose victim Rachel Whitear and David Falconer's stomach-turning ball of rats.

Now Saatchi has launched an astonishing and unprecedented broadside against the "mindless" critics who savaged his show. "I feel I've grown into my role as pantomime villain," he told the Standard, "but it is mindless to dismiss the art I show just because it's me that is showing it."

Speaking this weekend from his Belgravia mansion, he went on: "It is pitiful that so many critics find it easier to review me than the art."

His show at his gallery in County Hall attracted vitriolic reviews from critics who heaped derision on Saatchi himself and the exhibits, which also include Vine's portrait of a bloodied, weeping Princess Diana. So infuriated is Saatchi that he has turned the tables to draw blood of his own. He attacks some critics as ignorant, closed to new ideas and dependent on others to guide their conclusions.

He said: "Although there are some critics out there you can learn a lot from, too many of them know remarkably little about new art, can't cope without their PC guidebook or a press release and are always, but always, 10 years late getting their heads around anything new."

Despite the venom his New Blood show attracted, Saatchi can feel vindicated that the most important art lovers of all - the paying members of the public who keep the gallery afloat - have made it his most successful exhibition to date.

In its first 21 days the show had 56,000 visitors - about 2,650 a day - who spent [pounds sterling]476,000 on tickets alone. That total is 4,000 more than visited The Chapman Brothers' show over the same period and 5,000 more than saw the Damien Hirst retrospective. …

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