You may never have heard of Charles Saatchi. He is arguably one of the world’s biggest art collectors alive today – specifically contemporary art. He owns one of the world’s largest showcases for contemporary art – the 70,000 square foot Saatchi Gallery in the Duke of York’s Headquarters, Kings Road, in London, England.
Saatchi was only four when his wealthy Iraqi Jewish parents left Baghdad for England. Charles, as a student was obsessed with American pop culture and also demonstrated an early enthusiasm for collecting things that others may have placed little value on such as cigarette cards, comics and jukeboxes. (1)
Penchant for Art
Early on, Saatchi visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York and upon seeing a Jackson Pollock painting, the impact upon him was nothing short of life-changing. What he meant by ‘life changing’ is unclear but his insatiable thirst for art may have had its start right there. In 1969, at age twenty six, he acquired a piece of art by Sol LeWitt – reputed to be his very first acquisition.
Role in Margaret Thatcher’s Rise to Power
In 1970, Charles and his brother Maurice started an advertising agency which became the largest in the world with over 600 offices. Perhaps of greatest historical significance, is the fact their agency was the machinery used to catapult Conservative Margaret Thatcher into the British Prime Minister’s office.
Bringing to Light New Artists and Their Art
Although well known for the incredibly successful advertising agency, the reclusive, extremely non-public Saatchi is best known for buying the art of unknown, contemporary, and often ‘young’ artists and showcasing their work in his Gallery. In the 1980s and 90s, Saatchi discovered many artists, who, after he had showcased their work, went on to become internationally famous artists, selling works for millions. These include : Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Chapman Brothers, Sarah Lucas and Marc Quinn.(2) Damien Hirst is Britain wealthiest artist and the shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine, funded by Saatchi, became the iconic piece of art in Britain in the 1990’s. (3)
Limits to What the Multi-Millionaire Can Buy
Money does not seem to be an obstacle for Saatchi. He doesn’t think twice about paying three to four times the market value to acquire art he likes. With 2,500 pieces of art in his collection, the multi-millionaire seems to be able to buy whatever he desires; but he has acknowledged his money only goes so far.
Price Tag on Heaven
Saatchi was asked: “What is the one thing you now really wish you could buy?” With all the thoughtfulness allowed by safely answering such a personal question in a carefully edited book, the ‘hidden’ Saatchi responded: “My way into Heaven.” (4) After all these years of stunning the world with his art purchases, the one thing he really wishes he could buy now is his way into Heaven. There’s something tragically sad about that answer.
Can you relate to Saatchi’s wish? If there were a price-tag attached to a seat in Heaven would you work overtime to raise the necessary cash? If a ticket could be purchased to Heaven, would you buy one? Remember: Heaven can’t be bought.
How to Feel Closer to God
Saatchi was asked: “Does a love for religious Renaissance art, based on a Biblical theme, make one feel closer to God?” Read his response carefully. Obviously, the art collector has some underlying concerns about his own vertical relationship with God. His answer:
“I believe God must be very disappointed in his handiwork. Mankind has clearly failed to evolve much in all these years; we’re still as cretinous and barbaric as we were many centuries ago, and poor God must spend all day shaking his head at our vileness and general ineptitude. Or perhaps, we might just give him a good laugh. But of course, I hope God likes our art enough to forgive us our sins, particularly mine.” (5)
Forgiveness Not Based on Good Art
No, we don’t give God a good laugh. He cares deeply about us. And yes, sin is the only issue blocking a relationship with God. Of course, God sees our ‘general ineptitude’ and ‘our vileness’ and with such a record, there is no way one has even the slightest chance of being fit for Heaven. We desperately need to be forgiven; our record needs to be purged. And no, Mr. Saatchi, there is no piece of art in any gallery of earth that could be the basis for God to forgive your sins or mine.
We cannot paint our way to forgiveness or buy it either. Nor can we pray our way to Heaven or church our way there. Honesty, integrity, philanthropy nor charity can get us closer; all wonderful things but useless in finding forgiveness with God. Religious art may make one ‘feel’ closer to God but can’t make one closer to God. The difference between ‘feeling’ close and ‘being’ close to God is an eternity of difference.
How to Get Through to God Safely
There is only one safe way for you to be brought to God in beautiful nearness and that is through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The chasm between God and humans, caused by sin, was spanned by the death of Christ for our sins. If you want to be brought safely to God, Christ will do it for you.
“Christ also suffered once for sins,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that He might bring us to God.”
(1 Peter 3:18)
But now in Christ Jesus
you who once were far off
have been brought near
by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:13)For by grace you have been saved through faith,and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God,
not of works,
lest anyone should boast.
The gift of God includes the forgiveness of sins, a personal relationship with God and a seat in Heaven. It is not something you can purchase but it is something you can accept freely.
Mr. Saatchi, Christ purchased your way to Heaven by His sin-atoning death on the Cross. Because God loves you, He now offers you a free ticket to Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ. Will you accept His incredible and amazing gift of eternal life?
The Bible says:
For the wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
4. My Name is Charles Saatchi and I Am an Artoholic, Charles Saatchi, pg 112
5. ibid., pg 14