This former YBA, like Madonna, knows the value of regularly “shocking” the public. Last year, you will recall, he put up for sale a diamond-studded skull sculpture titled “For the Love of God,” with a $100 million price tag.
Now, in a protean burst of creativity (it helps when you have five factory/studios full of workers helping out), Hirst has amassed a body of 223 new pieces that go up for auction at Sotheby’s next week, on September 15 and 16. Regardless of how crass many people find the contemporary art market, it does still observe certain protocols – like having artists sell their new work through galleries. So to have one of the brashest of contemporary artists bypass his middleman dealers and go straight to market himself is not just shocking; it could, some fear, throw the entire market into turmoil.
Whatever one thinks of his art (Robert Hughes blasts Hirst once again in his BBC documentary on money and art, to be broadcast later this month), Hirst has quite a head for business – or so it would seem. Turns out that this shocking auction idea comes from one Frank Dunphy, a man who has served as Hirst’s business manager since the mid-90s, after Hirst won the Turner Prize. While Dunphy has been instrumental in amassing his client’s billion-dollar fortune, this could be the duo’s riskiest gambit yet.
And what became of that $100 million tchotchke, which is set to go on a world tour? Depending on what you read, the skull either remains unsold (but is not part of the auction), or Hirst himself is a part of the “investment group” that purchased it. Not to tout my own head for business, but it does seem rather oxymoronic to buy art from oneself …