Hirst Skull Sale Update II

September 7th, 2007

The theories surrounding the mysterious sale of Damien Hirst’s $100 million diamond skull continue! Carol Vogel of the New York Times reiterates what we already knew – private investors, deal to be closed within a few weeks, Hirst retained a stake to ensure a museum tour. Vogel is right – no museums were named. Maybe it’s bit too early to decide when and where it would or will exhibit. But we may also see replicate skulls in the future – Hirst has retained the right to make two more sculptures.

She also points out that despite all the talk this is creating in the art world, no one is speaking up for “fear of angering Mr. Hirst or White Cube”.

Vogel lists the top three theories making the rounds:

  • “The skull has not been sold, but the dealer and artist are trying to save face, after all the hype they promoted this summer.
  • “The skull has been sold, but the investment group consists of the artist, his dealer and his business manager. Supporters of this theory note that in 2003 Mr. Hirst and Mr. Jopling bought back about a dozen of Mr. Hirst’s seminal works from the collector Charles Saatchi, paying about $15 million.
  • “The investors consist of a group of banks that have accepted the skull as collateral for a $100 million loan to Mr. Hirst. “

Culture journalist Lee Rosenbaum thinks the sale is a sham. She writes, “If there truly were a legitimate $100-million sale to an outside group of investors, wouldn’t the artist and his dealer, who have been consistently cryptic, do everything in their power to explicitly squelch rumors that the sale was a sham?”

Her e-mail exchange with Sara Macdonald didn’t help either. Rosenbaum asked what it meant that Hirst “is keeping a stake” in the piece – whether he had literally put his own cash in the pile or not – and how much. Macdonald simply said “I’m afraid this information is not available,” then said what we already knew about the to-be-announced “global exhibition”.

Will we ever find out the details? We’ll keep an eye (and an ear) on this.

A Sparkling Skull, Shrouded in Mystery [NYTimes]
Is Hirst’s Skull a $100-million Hoax? [CultureGrrl]