There is an observation in Machiavel , with regard to the conquests of Alexander the Great, which I think, may be regarded as one of those eternal political truths, which no time nor accidents can vary. It may seem strange, says that politician, that such sudden conquests, as those of Alexander , should be possessed so peaceably by his successors, and that the Persians , during all the confusions and civil wars among the Greeks , never made the smallest effort towards the recovery of their former independent government. To satisfy us concerning the cause of this remarkable event, we may
Jane Rendell, ‘The Clubs of St. James’s: places of public patriarchy—exclusivity, domesticity and secrecy’, Journal of Architecture (1999) –89
Also the emperors liked hunting: here is a bas-relief from Constantine's arch
Critics of Charles Saatchi have enjoyed making the assumption that a man who has made his exceptional wealth in the field of advertising must have had his aesthetic judgement formed by television advertising, and that this judgement must be flawed. Ironically for these critics, Sydney artist Ken Done (also shunned by the Australian art world for being a former adman and too successful in financial terms as an artist), was recently interviewed by BBC Radio Four in London. He was asked whether Damien Hirst's shark in formaldehyde - 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living' (1991), Saatchi's most famous work until it was sold to an American museum for £7million - was good art and whether or not it scared him. Done, who rejects conceptual art and is passionate about the painted image (which is more relevant, he believes, in a world dominated by media and photography), replied that as an Australian, he is only scared of live sharks. Issues of integrity as opposed to commercial forces, cultural identity and conflict, the new world and ancient cultures, decadent society and individual commitment all play a part in the assessment of the validity of Saatchi's exhibition. In fact, a pluralist culture relegates such pursuits as largely untenable. Besides the obvious differences, the key issue that separates the two exhibitions is the quality of the dialogue.
Charles Saatchi has been collecting art for over 30 years and showing it for the last 20 years in his own gallery in London. His early exhibitions reveal a wide range of interests in the visual arts: Donald Judd, Brice Marden, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Carl André, Sol LeWitt, Frank Stella, Dan Flavin, Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra, Philip Guston and Sigmar Polke. The impressive list continues, making Saatchi not only a discerning collector but an individual responsible for elevating the profile of contemporary art and encouraging other collectors to choose 'contemporary art rather than racehorses, vintage cars, jewellery or yachts.'8
If we believe that Charles Saatchi is announcing that painting is alive after a critical hiatus, we might be irritated by the apparently dominant role of money over integrity. But Saatchi is not making such a claim. In fact, he is critical of curators and commentators in the art world in determining trends in art. In a recent interview he stated: