Billionaire art collectors deceived by Damien Hirst shark sculpture misdated by 18 years

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Where’s that “Michael Jackson grinning and eating popcorn” GIF? I sorta love that the somewhat-grifty art world is messing with the definitely-grifty billionaire class.


I always wondered where he got his resources so early. Turns out he was also dissecting his career.


gonna hate m’self for not getting the angle here, but can some wise person fill in the #2?

  1. list the date of an Art work as 18 years earlier than it was
  2. ?
  3. profit

and/or are “early works” instantly worth more, for some nebulous reason?


I guess maybe? But…

No Idea Idk GIF by Wiz Khalifa

Honestly, given everything else happening in the world, much like the princess Kate photo scandal, I really don’t know if I can care about this scandal… :woman_shrugging: It’s just… kind of weird, and I’m not sure why he’s decided to “back date” his works?


Damian Hurst was considered relevant to the media in the 1990s. I haven’t heard much about him for years now. Scamming billionaires could be considered to be a recent Damian Hurst artwork, although I doubt the courts would agree.


Gordon Ramsay Food GIF by Masterchef

I hope that’s the point…


Banksy’s folio is far more interesting than anything Damien has done. He jumped the shark YEARS ago.


Here’s my take on this:

So - modern art and to an extent post-modern art has continued to banter about the idea of “what is art” and “what makes art valuable/good”?

IMO, this is like the Dadaists taking ready made objects and calling them art. I added a signature to it and presented it - it is art now.

Artists often (but not always) add titles, dates, and short descriptions or underlying reasoning or objectives for the art. IMO - if changing the date alone changes the context and importance of the art - that - in itself - is part of the piece.

Now - part of me feels it is a little fraudulent. I wouldn’t support this practice on things like dating comic books or something.

But, another part of me feels like it feels a little fraudy for the buyer to put so much emphasis solely on the date. Is it art? Is it good/desirable art from an artist you like? Then the date shouldn’t be that relevant.

This is my pontificating from half remembered principles of studying the history of modern art, so I am sure it isn’t an iron clad criticism, but it’s the one I am making.


However, this approach goes against the widely accepted norms in the art world, where a single date typically signifies the year of completion.



Does that mean that these are art works too?

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I reckon that Art is what you think it is :+1:

Make no mistake, this is a cash grab on the part of Hirst. Implying that a work came from an earlier time when his work was edgier improves its perception of scarcity. Billionaires think a lot about scarcity. This probably doubled the price if the buyer thought it was produced in the 90s. Hirst is a master of putting himself on an elevated level. The art is decent, but Hirst is no Duchamp.


The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded), 1999
Damien Hirst
Organic matter, formaldehyde, glass

(from the collection of 2 billionaires)

The art world’s widely accepted norms being, screw the bastards for every penny you can get, if the artist benefits (even one as obnoxious as Hirst) rather than the agents, dealers, galleries then I’m okay with it (still)


Not quite. The widely accepted norm in this case would be to put the date in a bracket, (1999 - 2017). Some art projects are prohibitively expensive to execute at the time of their conception, or they’re just time consuming for some reason or another. The conventions we discuss here is called cataloguing, the term for the practice where one sums up art works in a few key parameters such as author, title, date, material and so on. You’ve seen these on museum labels a gazillion times. These conventions are not primarily created with rich art collectors in mind, but for the art going public at large and academia more specifically. In this context, it is of interest to know that the artist got this particular idea down on paper at such and such time, so that we would know where it fits into their oeuvre as well as the general context at the time. A professional artist will document this conception well, often giving it a work number, and make sure to fence it in so that they don’t then go on to make a number of derivative works while they wait for an opportunity to execute the initial concept.
An extreme example would be Tatlin’s tower which most would agree had a significant impact on modern sculpture throughout the 20th century, but which never actually got made. There’s no controversy that I am aware of concerning it’s 1919 dating, which is of interest to us primarily so that we can mull over how the idea affected parallel artistic processes, either from Tatlin himself or from other artists/architects in the same milieu. So if Hirst can document that this particular work was sketched out and given a work number in 1999, and that he’s been tidy about giving his work a dedicated entry his archives since then, I would argue that he’s mostly in the clear, though he could of course improve on his communication and transparency.


If this work was made in the 90s, it was made when the idea of presenting animals in formaldehyde was considered edgy and a “new” conception of “art”. If it was churned out in a factory last year it’s a sign that the “artist” hasn’t had a new idea since. A piece that was hot shit when it was new is more of a coprolite when made decades later. Artists are supposed to show signs of growth and change in their work over time.

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Some of the problem is that the originals have begun to decay, formaldehyde not withstanding. So a new one would whiff less.

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Hirst is a much better business man than he is an artist.

It would be interesting to know where the line is in terms of risking the perceived value of his work vs. having new product to move.

Hirst doesn’t get paid for stuff that has already been sold being perceived as valuable; so he has an obvious incentive to adopt rules that make it easier for new stock to come into existence as required; but he’s also got the fairly obvious problem of having stock whose value is mostly down to perception and scarcity; both of which are damaged by new stock too readily popping into existence.

The fact that art can have conception dates distinct from execution dates is well established enough that he probably won’t face some sort of fraud or trading standards problem(unless he was foolish enough to put something really cynical in writing); but he doesn’t need to to potentially have a problem: if potential customers take a “Oh, Hirst, if you think originals from his golden era are too scarce just give his employees a few months…” attitude that’s going to have a fairly obvious impact on sale prices.