Saatchi seeks an art deal with Nigella Lawson
Charles Saatchi is to negotiate his own divorce with Nigella Lawson in a battle to keep intact his contemporary art collection
Some of the artwork is on public display at his eponymous gallery in central London while hundreds more pieces remain in storage.
Their current value is unclear. Mr Saatchi has bought and sold several major works over the past decade, but he valued it at £200 million in 2003, the year he married the celebrity chef.
Mr Saatchi, 70, had hoped to leave a large part of his collection – described by the gallery as the “greatest contemporary art collection in private hands” – to the nation, but talks with the Arts Council and other institutions stalled more than a year ago, meaning the works remain in his ownership.
Divorce lawyers have told The Telegraph that the art works will be included in negotiations over the settlement.
The couple split in acrimonious circumstances last month after Mr Saatchi was photographed clutching Miss Lawson’s throat.
Mr Saatchi announced he was divorcing his 53-year-old wife through a tabloid newspaper, citing her refusal to issue a statement supporting him as one reason.
Although Miss Lawson has a personal fortune estimated to be in the region of £20 million, she is entitled under English marital law to a large share of her husband’s estate after 10 years of marriage.
Sources said Mr Saatchi is negotiating directly with Baroness Fiona Shackleton, a leading divorce lawyer who has been hired by his wife.
Lady Shackleton, who is Miss Lawson’s cousin and has been nicknamed the Steel Magnolia, advised the Prince of Wales in his divorce and represented Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce from second wife Heather Mills.
She famously had a jug of water thrown over her by Heather Mills at the end of the former Beatle’s arduous legal battle.
One legal source said: “Charles is acting for himself. He doesn’t like the lawyers he has had in the past and has chosen to go it alone. It is not uncommon for high-powered businessmen to think they can negotiate divorces themselves.
"Fiona likes doing deals. This just means the deal is being brokered between Fiona and Charles.”
The source suggested that a settlement was being arranged quickly and behind closed doors, without the need for a lengthy divorce case that could cost several million pounds in legal fees alone.
The source added: “There is money on both sides, so coming to an agreement should not be difficult. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s settled in a matter of weeks.”
Another legal source said: “Fiona Shackleton is going to look at what art he owns. It will be added into the matrimonial pot in the normal way. Just because it hangs in a gallery makes no difference.”
Mr Saatchi’s fortune was built on the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which he founded with his brother Lord Saatchi, and on some astute business deals. In recent years, Mr Saatchi has concentrated his energy on art, becoming one of the world’s best-known collectors.
Mr Saatchi has traded art over the years, making large profits on works by Damien Hirst and other British artists.
Mr Saatchi's collection includes Tracey Emin’s My Bed
But he has held on to seminal pieces including Tracey Emin’s My Bed, one of the best-known works by a contemporary British artist. Other items in the collection include pieces by Jake and Dinos Chapman and Marc Quinn.
The Saatchi Gallery, which opened in its current, prime location off the King’s Road in Chelsea in 2008, is one of Britain’s most visited tourist attractions. But it shows only a fraction of Mr Saatchi’s collection.
The gallery is free to the public and almost certainly subsidised by its owner.
A Saatchi Gallery spokesman said: “All of the work is owned by the gallery. It is technically owned by him [Mr Saatchi],” adding: “It is the greatest art collection in private hands.”
A well-placed source in the contemporary art world said it was impossible to put a value on the collection, not least because it was not clear what Mr Saatchi still owned.
At the couple’s former home in Eaton Square in central London, Mr Saatchi created a special room just to display Emin’s My Bed.
The source said: “It’s incredibly difficult to know what is in the collection and what it’s worth. Tracey Emin’s bed is unique and it is so hard to put a price on it.
"Back in 2003 he said the collection was worth up to £200 million. Who knows what it’s worth now because he is always trading. But Charles still has the best pieces of the artists he has collected over the years.”
According to the source, Mr Saatchi had told friends that he planned to leave Miss Lawson his art in the event of his death. The source said: “He told me that when he died he wanted the art to go to Nigella so she could sell it and do what she wanted with the money. But that was in happier times.”
The source added that Mr Saatchi’s second wife, Kay, received several notable pieces as part of her settlement when the couple divorced after 11 years of marriage in 2001.
Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson will also have to come to an agreement over financial arrangements for her two children from her previous marriage to John Diamond, the journalist and author who died of cancer.
In 2008, she gave an interview suggesting that she wanted her children, now aged 17 and 19, to fend for themselves and that this was a cause of friction with Mr Saatchi.
Miss Lawson’s spokesman declined to comment.