Charles Saatchi

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Charles Saatchi
Born (1943-06-09) 9 June 1943 (age 72)
Baghdad, Iraq
Nationality British[1]
Alma mater London College of Communication
Occupation Advertising executive, art collector and creative director
Known for Saatchi Gallery
Saatchi & Saatchi
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Doris Lockhart (m. 1973–90)
Kay Hartenstein (m. 1990–2001)
Nigella Lawson (m. 2003–13)
Children 1

Charles Saatchi (/ˈsɑː/; Arabic: تشارلز ساعتجي‎; born 9 June 1943) is a British businessman and the co-founder with his brother Maurice of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. The brothers led the business – the world's largest advertising agency in the 1980s – until they were forced out in 1995. In the same year, the brothers formed a new agency called M&C Saatchi. Charles is also known for his art collection and for owning Saatchi Gallery, and in particular for his sponsorship of the Young British Artists (YBAs), including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Early life[edit]

Charles Saatchi is the second of four sons born to Nathan Saatchi and Daisy Ezer, a wealthy Iraqi Jewish family in Baghdad, Iraq. The name "Saatchi" ساعتچی (sā'ātchi), which means "watchmaker", originates from Ottoman Turkish ساعتچي (Modern Turkish saatçi), derived from "saat" ("watch", in turn from Arabic "ساعة") with the suffix "-çi" [2][3] .[4] Charles's brothers are David (born 1937), Maurice Nathan (born 1946) and Philip (born 1953).[5] Nathan was a textile merchant and in 1947, he anticipated a flight that tens of thousands of Iraqi Jews would soon make to avoid persecution and relocated his family to Finchley, London.[6][7] Nathan purchased two textile mills in north London and after a time re-built a thriving business. Eventually the family would settle into an eight-bedroom house in Hampstead Lane, Highgate.[5]

Saatchi attended Christ's College, a grammar school in north London.[6] During this time, he developed an obsession with US  pop culture, including the music of Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. He has described as "life-changing" the experience of viewing a Jackson Pollock painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He then progressed to study at the London College of Communication.[8]

Advertising career[edit]

In his first advertising role as a copywriter in the London office of Benton & Bowles, where he met Doris Lockhart (later his first wife), Saatchi paired up with art director Ross Cramer. They worked as a team at Collett Dickenson Pearce and John Collins & Partners before leaving in 1967 to open a creative consultancy CramerSaatchi.

Unusually for a creative consultancy, they took on employees – John Hegarty was their first, followed by Jeremy Sinclair, who as of 2011 still retains a senior role at M&C Saatchi. In addition to offering consulting with ad agencies they also took on some clients directly.

In 1970, he started the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi with his brother Maurice, which by 1986 had grown to be the largest agency in the world, with over 600 offices. Successful campaigns in the UK included Silk Cut cigarettes and the promotion of the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher through the slogan "Labour Isn't Working". Eventually, he and his brother Maurice left the agency, and together founded the rival M&C Saatchi agency, taking many of their clients with them, including the British Airways advertising account.[7]


The Saatchi Gallery's new premises in Chelsea, which opened in October 2008.

In 1969, at age 26, Saatchi purchased his first work of art by Sol LeWitt, a New York minimalist. Saatchi initially patronised the Lisson Gallery in Marylebone, London, which specialised in minimalist works; he purchased an entire show by Robert Mangold.

In the early 1980s, Saatchi purchased a 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m2) cement-floored and steel-girded warehouse at 98A Boundary Road in the residential London suburb of St. John's Wood. The Saatchi Gallery was opened to the public in February 1985, to exhibit the art Saatchi had collected.[1][7]

At one point the Saatchi collection contained 11 works by Donald Judd, 21 by Sol LeWitt, 23 by Anselm Kiefer, 17 Andy Warhols and 27 by Julian Schnabel.

His taste has mutated from American abstraction and minimalism, to the Young British Artists, whose work he first saw at Goldsmith's Art School. He was instrumental in 1992 in launching the career of Damien Hirst and in bringing Marc Quinn to the forefront of the art world. His renown as a patron peaked in 1997, when part of his collection was shown at the Royal Academy as the exhibition Sensation, which travelled to Berlin and New York, causing headlines and some offence (for example, to the families of children murdered by Myra Hindley, who was portrayed in one of the works) and consolidating the position of the YBAs.

In 2009, he published the book My Name Is Charles Saatchi And I Am An Artoholic.[9] Subtitled "Everything You Need To Know About Art, Ads, Life, God And Other Mysteries And Weren't Afraid To Ask", it presents Saatchi's answers to a number of questions submitted by members of the public and journalists.

From November to December 2009, he had a television programme on the BBC called School of Saatchi in which he gave young aspiring artists an opportunity to showcase their work. He made no appearance in the programme, only communicating through an assistant.

In July 2010, Charles Saatchi announced he would be donating the Saatchi Gallery and over 200 works of art to the British public .[10][11]

The Saatchi Gallery featured in a list of the most visited art museums in the world, based on an attendance survey for 2014, compiled by The Art Newspaper, with 1,505,608 visitors.[12] In the same survey, the gallery was shown to have hosted 15 of the 20 most visited exhibitions in London over the last 5 years .[13]


Books published by Charles Saatchi include:

My Name Is Charles Saatchi And I Am An Artoholic. (2009) Phaidon. ISBN 9781861543332

Charles Saatchi: Question. (2010) Phaidon. ISBN 9780714857091

Be the Worst You Can be: Life's Too Long for Patience and Virtue. (2012) Abrams. ISBN 9781419703737

The Naked Eye. (2013) Booth-Clibborn Editions. ISBN 9781861543400

Babble. (2013) Booth-Clibborn Editions. ISBN 9781861543370

Known Unknowns. (2014) Booth-Clibborn Editions. ISBN 9781861543608

DEAD, A Celebration of Mortality. (2015) Booth-Clibborn Editions. ISBN 9781861543592

Beyond Belief: Racist, Sexist, Rude, Crude and Dishonest: The Golden Age of Madison Avenue. (2015) Booth-Clibborn Editions. ISBN 9781861543721


He and his brother founded an independent Jewish synagogue in Maida Vale, London, England, in 1998, in honour of their parents. In July 2010, Charles Saatchi announced he would be donating the Saatchi Gallery and over 200 works of art to the British public.

He has donated over 100 works to the Tate Gallery, Art for Hospitals and The Arts Council.

Personal life[edit]

According to the Times Online, Saatchi is "reclusive", even hiding from clients when they visited his agency's offices,[6][need quotation to verify] and, as of February 2009, has only ever granted two newspaper interviews.[6][14] He does not attend his own exhibition openings; when asked why by The Sunday Telegraph, he replied: "I don't go to other people's openings, so I extend the same courtesy to my own."[14] Both Hartenstein and Goldman refer to Saatchi's reclusiveness/shyness as a feint,[5] affected to allow him to accept (or more often decline) invitations and social requests as he chooses.

In The Sunday Times Rich List ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK, he was grouped with his brother Maurice, with an estimated joint fortune of £120 million.[15]


Saatchi first met Doris Lockhart Dibley (as she was then known) in 1965 when she was a copy group head above him at Benton & Bowles.[5] She was a native of Memphis, Tennessee[16] and Kevin Goldman describes her as "a sophisticated woman who spoke several languages, knew a great deal about art and wine and who had graduated from Smith College and the Sorbonne".[5] She became known during their marriage as an art and design journalist, with particular knowledge of American art and minimalism. They lived together for six years[17] before getting married in 1973 and divorcing in 1990.[16]

Saatchi's second wife was Kay Hartenstein (to whom he was married from 1990[18] to 2001[19]) an American Condé Nast advertising executive from Little Rock, Arkansas. Together they have a daughter, Phoebe.

Saatchi married his third wife, British journalist, author and cook Nigella Lawson,[20] having drawn disapproval when she moved in with him nine months after her previous husband's death.[21] In January 2011, Saatchi and Lawson moved from their former home in Belgravia to a new home in Chelsea, London. This was a double fronted seven-bedroom villa converted from its former use as a warehouse and conveniently situated only 200 metres from Saatchi's contemporary art gallery in King's Road, London. They lived with her two children Cosima and Bruno, as well as Phoebe.[22][23]

In June 2013, while dining at Scott's, a London seafood restaurant, Saatchi was photographed with his hand around Lawson's throat.[24][25] The day after the pictures were published, Saatchi said they were misleading and depicted only a "playful tiff".

In early July, it was announced that the couple were to divorce.[26] Lawson cited ongoing unreasonable behaviour in her divorce petition.[23] On 31 July 2013, seven weeks after the incident, Saatchi and Lawson were granted a decree nisi, ending their ten-year marriage.[23] They reached a private financial settlement.[23] R v Grillo and Grillo, a trial for fraud involving the former couple's two Italian-born personal assistants, sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, began on 27 November 2013.[27]


  1. ^ a b "Charles, Iraqi Saatchi". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 24 November 2009. 
  2. ^ Alkalesi, Yasin M. (October 2006). "Nouns of Occupations with Suffixes -chi and -chiyya". Modern Iraqi Arabic: A Textbook. Georgetown University Press. ISBN 978-1-58901-130-4. 
  3. ^ Nişanyan, Sevan. "Nişanyan Sözlük, "saat"". Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  4. ^ Nişanyan, Sevan. "Nişanyan Sözlük, "+çI ekiyle yapılan kelimeler"". Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Goldman – Conflicting Accounts
  6. ^ a b c d Thomson, Alice; Rachel Sylvester (28 February 2009). "The Saturday interview: Charles Saatchi". London: Times Online. Retrieved 24 November 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c Jones, Chris (12 July 2002). "Charles Saatchi: Artful adman". BBC News. Retrieved 24 November 2009. 
  8. ^ Gleadell, Colin (31 December 2001). "Adventures in Saatchiland". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  9. ^ ISBN 0-7148-5747-5
  10. ^ Hewage, Tim. "Saatchi Donates Art Collection To Public", Sky News, 1 July 2010.
  11. ^ Dorment, Richard (1 July 2010). "Charles Saatchi's donation". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  12. ^ "List of most visited art museums in the world". 
  13. ^ "Instituto Brasileiro de Museus" (PDF). Instituto Brasileiro de Museus. 14 January 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Readers' questions". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 24 November 2009. 
  15. ^ "Rich List 2009". London: Times Online. 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  16. ^ a b Darwent, Charles (18 October 1998). "Pieces from a confessional". London: The Independent. Retrieved 24 November 2009. 
  17. ^ Goldman, p.39
  18. ^ Heller Anderson, Susan (13 August 1990). "Chronicle". The New York Times (New York ed.) (The New York Times). p. B6. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Dougary, Ginny (26 July 2008). "Kay Saatchi on life after Charles Saatchi". The Times (London: Times Newspapers). Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  20. ^ "Jonathan Ross cooks up a storm with Nigella Lawson". BBC Press Office, 10 October 2003; retrieved 30 September 2007.
  21. ^ Sands, Sarah. I don't want to be some kitchen blow-up sex doll. Daily Mail, 1 December 2006; retrieved 29 July 2012.
  22. ^ Hilton, Beth. Lawson 'won't leave children a penny'. Digital Spy, 29 January 2008. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  23. ^ a b c d Jones, Sam (31 July 2013). "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi granted divorce in 70-second hearing". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  24. ^ Victoria Ward "Nigella Lawson 'attacked by husband' at restaurant",, 16 June 2013
  25. ^ Sears, Neil (23 June 2013). "Nigella Lawson's throat attack ordeal Charles Saatchi momentary tiff". London: Daily Mail. 
  26. ^ "Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson to divorce", BBC News, 7 July 2013
  27. ^ "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi marriage 'secrecy'", BBC News, 27 November 2013

Further reading[edit]

  • Hatton, Rita and Walker, John A. Supercollector: A Critique of Charles Saatchi, Institute of Artology, 2005. ISBN 0-9545702-2-7
  • Kent, Sarah. Shark Infested Waters: The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the 90s, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 2003. ISBN 0-85667-584-9
  • Goldman, Kevin Conflicting Accounts – The Creation & Crash of the Saatchi & Saatchi Empire, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997. ISBN 0-684-83553-3

External links[edit]