NEW YORK—Damien Hirst’s London gallery White Cube announced in late August that it had sold the artist’s platinum, diamond-encrusted skull entitled For the Love of God to a consortium of unidentified investors, which includes the artist himself, for the much-touted asking price of £50 million ($100 million).
No further details about the investors or the actual transaction date have been released. News of the sale was closely followed by an announcement that Hirst has codesigned a new spring 2008 collection for Levi Strauss that will be known as Warhol Factory X Levi’s X Damien Hirst. The Warhol Factory X denim line, which includes images from Andy Warhol’s artworks, was launched in 2006 in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York (ANL, 8/30/05). Hirst’s line includes jeans decorated with a skull pattern of Swarovski Crystals and priced at $4,000 a pair.
However, the timing of the reported £50 million sale has fueled doubt among many art-world observers about the validity of the deal. According to press reports, theories range from the notion that no sale actually took place—and that the artist and his managers are trying to save face—to speculation that the “investment group” is comprised of the artist, his dealer and his business manager Frank Dunphy. White Cube declined to comment on these reports.
Four years ago, collector Charles Saatchi reportedly sold 12 works by Hirst back to the artist and his dealer, White Cube’s Jay Jopling (ANL, 12/9/03). At the time, trade sources told ARTnewsletter that individual asking prices included £1 million ($1.7 million) for This Little Piggie Went to Market, 1996, a sliced pig in formaldehyde; and £1.5 million ($2.6 million) for Some Comfort Gained . . ., 1996, a dissected cow also in formaldehyde. At the time, some dealers placed the estimate for the overall deal at $15 million.
“I love art that you can’t just look at, art that assaults you,” Hirst was quoted as saying in a press release issued recently by the Warhol Foundation. Noting its collaboration with Hirst, the foundation added, “Warhol said, ‘Art is what you can get away with,’ and this high-end, collaborative collection is a testament to the philosophy of both artists.”