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Tate refused previous offer from Saatchi

Serota said no to 100 works in 1998, but is still keen to buy “major” pieces

Tate has responded to Charles Saatchi’s revelations in The Art Newspaper, widely reported in the international press, that he had offered his entire collection to the gallery (No. 153, December 2004, pp. 1 and 4). Director Nicholas Serota emphasised that a loan was being proposed, and that “at no point was there any suggestion that it was being offered as a gift”. He was also under the impression that the loan would have comprised the 100 or so works on display at the Saatchi Gallery in County Hall, not the 2,500 works in the entire collection, worth over £100 million. Sir Nicholas informed his chairman, then David Verey, but the verbal offer was not formally discussed by the trustees.

The key discussion between Mr Saatchi and Sir Nicholas was during a telephone conversation a year ago. This was mainly about plans for extra space at Tate Modern, in a set of disused oil storage tanks—a project that would cost many millions of pounds to develop. There was only a brief mention of the offer of works of art. News of Mr Saatchi’s approach was revealed in his replies to questions from The Art Newspaper and our readers.

Tate has left the door open for a rapprochement. Their statement last month explained: “Of course the offer of a gift of major works from Charles Saatchi’s collection would be a most generous gesture and would be much welcomed by Tate’s trustees. They have always made it clear that they would be very pleased to acquire, by gift or purchase, major works from the Saatchi collection.”

Meanwhile Mr Saatchi has since revealed that he had earlier made what he describes as a “formal” offer to donate 100 works to Tate. This approach was by letter.

Mr Saatchi’s spokesperson explained: “Charles Saatchi made a formal offer of a gift of 100 works to Tate in 1998. This gift was rejected by Nick Serota.” Highlights included works by Langlands & Bell, Martin Creed, Chantal Joffe, Richard Billingham, Richard Wilson and Glenn Brown. One of these, a four-panel painting by Brown, is valued by Mr Saatchi at over £250,000. The 1998 offer was considered, but not taken up by Tate trustees. Mr Saatchi then donated 100 works to the Arts Council the following year.