‘M&C Saatchi is back’: agency signs deal to be principal patron of Saatchi Gallery

Ad agency founded by Saatchi brothers teams up with gallery that was set up by Charles Saatchi.

M&C Open House students at Saatchi Gallery
M&C Open House students at Saatchi Gallery

M&C Saatchi has agreed a deal with the Saatchi Gallery to be the gallery's principal patron in a three-year partnership estimated to be worth seven figures.

The deal brings together two Saatchi brands: the agency that was set up with backing from Maurice and Charles Saatchi in 1995 and the art gallery that was founded by Charles in 1985.

M&C Saatchi and the Saatchi Gallery announced the partnership by declaring: “Saatchis unite for meaningful change.”

The Saatchi brothers are not involved. Maurice quit M&C Saatchi in 2019 and Charles stepped back from the gallery in the same year – long after he had left adland to focus on collecting art.

M&C Saatchi has a new management team, led by Moray MacLennan, who became chief executive in January, and is looking to capitalise on the Saatchi brand name and demonstrate it is in growth mode after the pandemic and an accounting scandal in 2019.

The agency group said it wants to use its patronage of the gallery, which is based in upmarket Chelsea in London, to deepen access to contemporary art and broaden learning opportunities for young people in the UK and worldwide.

(Photo: Graduates from M&C Saatchi Groups creative access programme Open House)

Speaking about the agency's decision to become principal patron of the gallery, Richard Thompson, UK chairman of M&C Saatchi, told Campaign: “This is a statement that says M&C Saatchi is back. It shows some condfidence and ambition.

“It also demonstrates that we are looking to make a genuine difference to an area that, like so many parts of the economy, has been impacted by the pandemic. It's putting creativity at the core of our beliefs, of what we do and what we are.”

The collaboration will include community engagement projects, a cultural change programme to identify the next generation of artists influencing societal change, an annual art prize and an expanded learning programme. 

“The partnership is founded on a shared mission in making art, culture, and creativity accessible to everyone – including youth participation in the arts, which has been linked to positive academic and social outcomes later in life,” M&C Saatchi and the Saatchi Gallery said, noting that the number of students taking art at GCSE level has tumbled nearly 40% since 2010.

M&C Saatchi has made efforts to improve access to the creative industries in recent years, launching a number of initiatives including Open House, Saturday School and Mentor Black Business, which teach entrepreneurship.

“Creativity changes everything”

MacLennan said of the deal with the Saatchi Gallery: “This ground-breaking partnership will provide a meaningful contribution to the arts. Our ambition is to bring art and culture to a younger and more diverse audience because, quite simply, creativity changes everything.”

Thompson added: “As we emerge post pandemic, our partnership with Saatchi Gallery will reignite innovation in, and access to, contemporary art. From influencing human rights and conflict prevention to addressing the climate emergency, M&C Saatchi has always believed in the power of iconic creativity to change the world.”  

Ed Steven, board representative for the Saatchi Gallery, said: “We are thrilled to work with another large team of creatives who are also committed to supporting living artists as well as rendering contemporary art and culture accessible to all, not just the exclusive ‘art world’.”

He went on: “The partnership comes at a crucial time when funding and access to contemporary art is in decline. However, there is a strong desire from the public to visit our exhibitions and be inspired. We are excited to see what we can now achieve together.”

Epic party

M&C Saatchi has no previous business links to the Saatchi Gallery but put aside its differences with the brothers' previous company, Saatchi & Saatchi, which they founded in 1970, to co-host an epic, 40th anniversary party at the gallery in 2010. 

Thompson said M&C Saatchi plans to use the gallery to stage agency events as part of the partnership.

M&C Saatchi continues to have a healthy rivalry with Saatchi & Saatchi, which is owned by Publicis Groupe. Campaign revealed last year that the two companies had informal conversations about a possible merger in around 2017 but they never progressed.

Maurice Saatchi and all of the non-executive directors quit M&C Saatchi in a boardroom split over the accounting problems in 2019 but the agency has been recovering. 

MacLennan proclaimed a "turning point" in M&C Saatchi's performance earlier this month, after it posted better-than-expected interim results and a return to revenue growth. 

Charles Saatchi is known as one of the world's top art collectors and opened his gallery, originally in St John's Wood, as a space to house his collection.

He went on to organise an acclaimed exhibition, Sensation, at the Royal Academy in 1997 that raised the profile of the so-called Young British Artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

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