“Some of these young artists don’t have dealers or anyone to be their spokesperson. I don’t want to be a dealer—I just want the dealers to take them on,” says Saatchi, who declined a dealer’s cut of the sales. Decked out in a black Marni dress, with fluorescent orange toenails peeking out from Yves Saint Laurent platforms, Saatchi is in the cozy sitting room of the Pimlico town house she shares with 13-year-old Phoebe, her daughter with Charles. The place is stuffed with art, including paintings by Rego, photographs by Diane Arbus and jugs painted by Picasso.
Saatchi’s love of art didn’t begin when she met Charles. Though she began her career in advertising at Condé Nast in New York during the early Eighties, helping to launch Self and relaunch GQ,, she spent her spare time hanging out at Leo Castelli’s gallery on West Broadway. “I loved him,” she says. “He was a mentor. He was the one who suggested I move to London to start a gallery because there was so much competition in New York.”
Saatchi made the leap in 1986, partnering with two others to open the Mayor Rowan gallery, which showed artists including Jonathan Lasker. She later moved to Mayfair’s Waddington Galleries, where she organized a sellout show of Julian Schnabel’s plate paintings—although the reviews were mixed. Brian Sewell, the controversial longtime art critic at the Evening Standard, thought it was “rubbish,” says Saatchi with a laugh. “He did an interview that caused such a commotion that people just came flocking into the gallery.”
Kay met Charles in 1987 at the Royal Academy’s “Modern British” show. He was separating from his first wife, Doris Lockhart, also a blond Southern belle, and they began dating seriously nine months later. “The whole reason we got together was because we had this art thing in common,” Kay says. “I was probably the only woman besides Doris who could talk to Charles about Jeff Koons and stuff back then—none of those artists had shown here.” During their 11-year marriage, the Saatchis trudged through London schools, warehouses and artists’ studios in search of the next hot young things. “It was our life,” she says.