It has long been a fascination, or is it an oxymoron, how the ‘notoriously shy’ Charles Saatchi makes the news when it suits him to pitch his wares, be they ad campaigns or exhibitions of art. Or, just now his book, ‘My Name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic.
This part of his genius, which I do not believe is too strong a word, was first evidenced in the way he created the myth, the success, of Saatchi & Saatchi in its heydays in the 80s. Yes, of course, some great ads were produced but others were doing that. The difference, which paved the way to the global stage, was the way he pitched the agency like a Fellini directing a masterpiece.
Long before he shunned openings of his shows, he shunned meetings with his clients. In his stead, he recognised that brother Maurice and Tim Bell were star performers both of whom exuded the charm and the confidence, backed by his certainty, that captivated clients. (Today both these Lords of the Realm continue to captivate!)
He understood, seemingly before competitors, the power of the first impression and the aura of success. The latter, in part, was achieved through what appeared like an ownership of editorial endorsement from Campaign magazine. The former through the then iconic reception area of 80 Charlotte St.
He treated this as an exhibition space. The exhibits were striking visuals -a logo, a packshot, an advertisement- selected only by Charles, one for each valued, and indeed valuable, client. The way each was positioned on the walls, and carefully repositioned each time a new client was acquired, was the decision of Charles alone!
Reportedly, this meticulous positioning, or is it pitching, of each painting is not something he entrusts to anyone else in the astonishing new Saatchi Gallery. Like a great theatre, this generates an electricity of anticipation such that you want the performance, the art, to be great. It usually is.