Britain is getting ready for the debut next week of Charles Saatchi’s art reality show The School of Saatchi. London’s Evening Standard takes a look behind the scenes. Because Saatchi doesn’t like to appear in public, the show employs a few different vehicles to convey the collectors impressions of the artists and their work. One is to have gallery assistants appear with Saatchi’s verdict memorized. The other is to include Frank Cohen, a Manchester-based collector, as an alter ego and stunt double:
Cohen is worth an estimated £40 million, a fortune he made with a chain of 50 DIY stores across the north of England, and he owns more than 1,500 works of art, many of which he shows at his self-built gallery in Wolverhampton. […] Cohen is a cheerful, good-natured chap, apparently without a cynical bone in his body. At the age of 66, he rarely gives interviews, but in this case feels duty-bound to justify the TV show: “Charles knows I’ll stand here and front it up. I don’t mind getting the stick.” […]
“I think Saatchi wants the programme to come over as a serious take on the processes of contemporary art rather than a competition. It doesn’t cheapen art at all; if anything, it’ll educate people in how contemporary art is made and what it means.”
Cohen adds that he’s relieved the art bubble has burst. And, despite the impact it will have on artists, he thinks its a good thing that big money will no longer be an expectation for them:
“I have to say I’m glad it’s gone down with a bang,” says Cohen, “because that [over-inflated] market stopped me from buying, and I think it stopped Charles, too. It was ridiculous. The world was awash with money, the Indians, Chinese and Arabs appeared with colossal sums, and people were spending huge amounts of money on stuff that just wasn’t worth it.”
Despite his £40 million fortune and a collection of art that includes Jeff Koons, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, as well as Turner Prize-winning Brit artist Martin Creed and the Chapman Brothers, he says he felt priced out of the market: “I didn’t buy for 18 months. I’ve never bought art as an investment but because I like individual pieces of work — but the prices were definitely stopping me from buying.”
Even now, the most sought-after pieces of contemporary art are fetching astonishing prices […] but Cohen believes that, for most living artists, the days of multi-million sales are effectively over.
Britain’s Got Art Talent at School of Saatchi (This is London/Evening Standard)