It’s true. Mick Jagger and I were rubbing elbows a couple of nights ago at the opening of the new Damien Hirst exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find Sir Mick at this event, since he’s one of the very few people in the world who could afford to purchase Mr. Hirst’s art. Sadly, I am not one of those people.
I don’t think Mick actually bought anything, despite being led around personally by Larry Gagosian, who himself may or may not be able to afford the art that Mr. Hirst produces. (To be fair, Larry Gagosian lives in a very expensive townhouse in Manhattan when he isn’t at his even more expensive property in the Hamptons, so maybe he can afford Hirst’s art.)
But this is a story about business change, and now I’m going a step deeper: Damien Hirst is a very wealthy man himself, and I don’t believe he can afford to buy his own art!
Here’s the thing: Damien Hirst, if you aren’t familiar with his work, produces art that can only be described as self-indulgent. Diamond-encrusted skulls, solid-gold-adorned bull’s heads in pressurized-gas environments. And at the event I attended, the unveiling of a thirty-foot long piece of wall art made of gold and holding—I’m not kidding—thirty thousand mid-size to large diamonds .
It’s both garish and, in its way, beautiful. And my immediate thought was “those can’t be real”.
The diamonds are manufactured rather than natural, and I can’t speak to their real value, but if you conservatively estimate their value at $1,000 each that means the diamonds are worth $30 Million. The gold case weighs many pounds, of course, and you have to believe that Mr. Hirst’s genius carries its own price tag, so let’s say that this piece has to be worth at least . . . oh . . . $50 million.
I sought out a person I know who can speak to the way the art business works, and asked: can Damien Hirst possibly have enough money lying around to buy the raw materials for something of this magnitude?
The answer was: it doesn’t matter. Damien Hirst, or his benefactor(s) . . . Larry Gagosian? Mick Jagger? . . . go to a bank and put up the art itself as collateral for the value of its components, before that art is created. (footnote: in June 2012 I ran into this piece at an exhibit in London; obviously it hasn’t been dismantled for the value of its parts just yet 😉 )
You didn’t think artists were all still starving for the sake of their art, did you? Art is a business too, and this is a business change that makes sense. I mean seriously, what’s the worst thing that happens? A Mick Jagger – like buyer never materializes and the bank disassembles the exhibit and sells the gold and diamonds on the open market?
Don’t ever close your mind to new forms of business change. It’s everywhere.
By the way: my very short time with Mick Jagger tells me: he’s a nice enough bloke.