Saatchi gives modern art collection to Britain

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British art collector Charles Saatchi, credited with discovering Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, will give more than 200 art works worth 25 million pounds to the nation, his museum said Thursday.

The works from London's Saatchi Gallery -- worth 37 million dollars or 30 million euros and seen as Britain's finest collection of contemporary art in private hands -- will be donated to a foundation.

But advertising guru Saatchi will remain head of the museum, gallery associate director Rebecca Wilson told AFP, adding that the transition would take place "fairly soon".

"He's very passionate about contemporary art, and he wanted wanted to ensure the future of the Saatchi Gallery, the same way as he's been running it for 25 years," she said.

"He wanted to give this country a really powerful museum of contemporary art which not only is known for its core permanent collection, but will continue to show very new art from artists from all over the world."

The art will continue to be housed in the Saatchi Gallery, a 70,000 square foot, state-of-the-art space in the upmarket Chelsea district of London which has been its home since 2008.

When Saatchi retires, it will be re-named the Museum of Contemporary Art London and, although there will be a permanent collection, it will continue his practice of constantly selling off existing works to buy new art.

"Saatchi's view is that it is vital for the museum always to be able to display a 'living' and evolving collection of work, rather than an archive of art history," a statement from his publicists said.

Emin, whose work "My Bed" will be included in the gift alongside works from Jake and Dinos Chapman and Grayson Perry, said: "I'm thrilled. I wish more people had that kind of vision."

Perry added: "This is fantastic news! I'm very proud to be part of another national institution."

Details about how the government will manage the collection are still being ironed out, although the gallery will remain responsible for paying its running costs, including the lease of the building, a former military barracks.

The move was welcomed by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said: "Charles Saatchi has built up a collection of huge international importance.

"His decision to gift these works to the nation is an act of incredible generosity and I'd like to thank him on behalf of the government".

Saatchi, who is married to British television cook Nigella Lawson, will keep hundreds of works in his private collection.

But he may still contribute some of these items to the public gift, which will be unveiled in three exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery from 2012.

© 2010 AFP

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