LONDON—Charles Saatchi has given notice that he will leave his current gallery space in London’s County Hall and relocate to more spacious premises in the Duke of York’s military headquarters in Chelsea, with plans to reopen the gallery in April 2007. “The behavior of the landlord has made our long-term tenancy untenable,” said Saatchi, referring to Makoto Okamoto, European head of the Shirayama Shokusan Corporation, the Japanese company that bought County Hall in 1993. Saatchi spent a reported £3 million ($5 million) refurbishing the space when he moved there in 2003 (see ANL, 4/15/03).
Since then, it is alleged, Okamoto has kicked a sculpture by Gavin Turk, changed the locks on the gallery’s washroom for the handicapped, and sworn at members of the gallery staff. Okamoto, in turn, has obtained injunctions to stop Saatchi from displaying art in the building’s lobby, prevent the sale of reduced- price tickets at the door and remove banners advertising the Saatchi Gallery outside the building. “He has made the gallery staff despondent with an endless campaign of petty unpleasantness, and we don’t feel the gallery could develop in this malevolent atmosphere,” said Saatchi. A High Court hearing is scheduled for this month.
Exhibitions at the County Hall gallery will, however, continue until 2007, and the “Triumph of Painting” show, which has attracted more than 360,000 visitors, has been extended. This will allow more of Saatchi’s painting collection to be displayed than previously anticipated.
Although the new building will attract fewer passing tourists and will lose the riverboat audience traveling between Tate Britain and Tate Modern, it is a fashionable and central location, and Saatchi will be the sole occupant. At 50,000 square meters (538,000 square feet) it is larger and better laid-out than County Hall, with high ceilings. It will house a café, bookshop and educational facilities. It also has the advantage for Saatchi of being a short walk from his London home.