Manjari Sihare of Saffronart ponders over the latest news to hit the global art world
New York: Damien Hirst is in the news again. This time for his split with his primary gallery (also one of the world’s largest, but more about that later), Gagosian. After a longstanding relationship of seventeen years, the gallery and the artist are headed for a split. Why? No one knows (yet!). Even Jerry Saltz’s Facebook page (my usual go-to for art world breaking news) has no mention. All we have are amicable press statements issued from both sides wishing the other success.
And success it will be, for both Gagosian and Hirst are unstoppable. According to a recent report by The Financial Times, Gagosian’s turnover was estimated at $925m this past year. Likewise in June 2012, The Sunday Times cited Damien Hirst as the world’s wealthiest artist, with a fortune of £215m.
What we will miss are fruits of this lethal combo! It was the perfect marriage! Gagosian has hosted some spectacular exhibitions of the artist’s work, the most recent being a worldwide showing of Hirst’s Spot Paintings at the beginning of 2012. It also played a significant role in organizing a giant retrospective of Hirst’s work at the Tate Modern in London this summer. The exhibition went down in the institution’s history as the most popular one drawing almost half a million visitors.
The artist-gallery relationship is tricky as it is often ruled by power, from opposite points of view. There is no one-size-fits-all model. But Hirst has always been his own master, right from the beginning. He first came into news in 1988 when still as a student at London’s Goldsmith’s College, he curated an exhibition in an abandoned warehouse to show his and his peer’s work. In 2008, he broke the art market convention of selling only through representative galleries. He side-stepped both his primary galleries, Gagosian in New York and White Cube in London to hold an auction of his works (mostly new) in London. Interestingly this auction coincided with the fall of Lehmann Brothers and the beginning of the global financial crisis of 2008-09, but was a success nonetheless.
What does Hirst’s news coincide with this time? Is it the first sign of Apocalypse 2012 – an “artpocalypse” perhaps? Definitely not! In an industry where most relationships are made on a hand shake, none of these splits are carved in stone. Stay tuned for more on this story and other art world news in 2013!