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13 June 2008updated 05 Oct 2023 8:31am

U2 could be rich…

By Heather McRobie

Three graduates at the Royal Academy School became the envy of art students across the county when Charles Saatchi bought their entire graduate collections hours before the degree show even opened to the public. Carla Busutill, Angus Sanders-Dunnachie, and Jill Mason can now reasonably expect to join the ranks of celebrated artists from Hirst and Emin to Stella Vine, whose careers were launched after Saatchi discovered their work. According to Dalya Alberge at the Times, the wealthy art collector’s singular role as a “barometer of the art market” is still unparalleled. Alberge explains that the impact of Saatchi’s influence, while undisputed, can be unstabilising, as he “likes to buy in bulk, allowing him to control an artist’s market, [but] he also likes to sell in bulk, which unnerves the market.” This raises the question of whether one individual’s dominance of the arts world can ever be a good thing. The Independent’s Arifa Akbar profiles artists such as Sandro Chia who were feted and then suddenly dropped by Saatchi, effectively destroying their careers. Still, for the three graduates at the RA, the highs are likely to outweigh the lows for the time being.

Booker-shortlisted writer Indra Sinha has begun a hunger strike in protest against the treatment of survivors of the Bhopal disaster in India. Sinha is participating in a global fast intended to bring the Dow Chemical Company to court in India over the role of its subsidiary, Union Carbide, in the 1984 chemical leak that killed many thousands of people. Sinha’s novel, Animal’s People, is loosely based on the Bhopal tragedy, and the author has previously said that Dow, who took over Union Carbide in 2001, should be brought to justice for criminal negligence. Sinha also posted an open letter to the government of India on his website, in which he writes that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his ministers “are in contortions to appease Dow, which has offered to invest $1bn in India if freed from its Bhopal liabilities”.

In case they needed any more money, U2 are set to make up to £6 million next month when they auction a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat at Sotheby’s. According to the Irish Independent newspaper, the work by the late New York artist, called ‘Untitled (Pecho/Oreja)’, was bought by U2 bassist Adam Clayton in 1989, and is listed as the auctioneers as “property from the collection of U2”. The auction comes at a time of renewed interest in the artist’s work – in 2007, Sotheby’s set a world record at auction for Basquiat when it sold his 1981 ‘Untitled’ for $14.6 million. One can’t help but wonder what Basquiat – often described as New York’s first graffiti artist – would have made of this development, but it echoes his mentor Andy Warhol’s view that “making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”