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Saatchi vs Serota: SE1 gallery bosses in war of words

London SE1 website team

Tate Modern has rejected claims that the Bankside attraction rejected an offer from Charles Saatchi of his entire £200 million collection of modern art.

Tate's director Sir Nicholas Serota said that Saatchi had suggested a loan of the 2,500 works by Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread and others, but explained the venue would have needed to carry out extensive renovations to house the objects in the derelict oil tank space south of the Turbine Hall.

"I did offer my collection to Nicholas Serota at the Tate last year," Charles Saatchi told the Sunday Telegraph. "I was struggling with . . . the alarming behaviour of the Japanese landlords [at County Hall] [and] I remembered that at the time Tate Modern opened, Nick had told me that there were new extensions planned that would add half again to the gallery capacity.

"By the time I offered the collection to Nick, the Tate already had commitments for the extension."

"So I lost my chance for a tastefully engraved plaque and a 21-gun salute. Now the mood has passed, I'm happy not to have to visit Tate Modern, or its storage depot, to look at my art."

Saatchi, whose gallery at County Hall on the South Bank is a short walk from Bankside's Tate Modern, is scathing about his rivals: "Many [exhibitions] are disappointing. The curators should get out more and see more studios and grass roots shows. They evidently lack an adventurous curatorial ambition.

"The Tate seems sadly disengaged from the young British art community. It ought to have reflected the energy and diversity of British art over the last 15 years in both its exhibitions and collecting policy. Puzzlingly, museums in Europe and the US are far more interested in examining Britain's recent artistic achievements.""

A Tate spokeswoman said: "Of course the offer of a gift of major works from Charles Saatchi's collection would be a most generous gesture and would be much welcomed by Tate Trustees.

"They have always made it clear that they would be very pleased to acquire, by gift or purchase, major works from the Saatchi collection."

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