Charles Saatchi, well-know art collector and all-round bully, is currently selling paintings depicting him strangling his ex-wife on his website.
Let’s think about that for second. Charles Saatchi is distributing paintings of himself strangling Nigella Lawson on his website. No, he didn’t personally create the images, and no, the two have not been the best of friends since the infamous 2013 incident, during which Saatchi grabbed Lawson by the neck outside a seafood restaurant; but exactly what kind of person promotes images that incriminate themselves? Is Saatchi sending a message to his ex-wife? Is he demonstrating his indifference to the collapse of his marriage? Does he believe that spousal abuse is aesthetically pleasing? Is he simply a vindictive brute? What a strange, misled idea.
The pieces – which are selling for as much as $32,000 – are different in style, but all portray Saatchi with his hands around Lawson’s neck. One image has Saatchi sticking his tongue out as he throttles a horrified-looking Lawson; another, in pop art style, has a thought bubble above Lawson’s head that reads, ‘So this is how it all ends’ (this last piece has been painted onto a chopping board). Not only are these incredibly offensive, and truly wanting in taste, but they’re just plain mean. According to Lawson, Saatchi subjected her to severe mental abuse and degradation; in 2012, the gourmet cook told Simon Schama that she would even ask God for strength to get her through another day with her then-husband (Ms Lawson is an atheist). One would hope Saatchi would have some sort of remorse for the pain he has brought upon the woman he married; apparently, he does not.
To be fair, the paintings were originally created by Saatchi critics – including Darren Udaiyan – and put on the Internet to mock him. They were intended to laugh at Saatchi himself; and yet, what the artists failed to recognise is that all they’re doing is laughing at his victim. They may have succeeded in getting Saatchi to see their art, but in no way does he see their point; the ironic twist is that he is making a reported 30% commission from selling the paintings that were intended to ridicule him. Rebecca Wilson, who is the chief curator at Saatchi art, has reportedly claimed that, ‘Saatchi art does not believe in censorship unless the material is pornographic or incites racial hatred.’
But, it seems, material that depicts oppression and assault – by his own hand, at that – is A-OK in Mr Saatchi’s book.