Damien Hirst: at the center of controversy

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Damien Hirst, an emblematic and provocative figure in the art world, continues to make headlines, well beyond his most expensive works on the market. The British artist, known for his daring artistic choices, including the preservation of animals in formaldehyde, also made waves by trolling the famous banana by Maurizio Cattelan in 2020. During this same period, as noted by Dazed, he dove into the chaotic adventure of NFTs, while drastically reducing his staff of 63 employees, all alongside a lucrative advance of 15 million pounds sterling. Hirst’s latest eccentricity? Backdating his creations. This gesture, far from trivial, artificially increases the value of the works on the market.

The Guardian reveals a daring maneuver: the artist assigned a date of 2016 to a thousand paintings from his series “The Currency”, launched in 2021. These canvases, painted with colorful dots, were available for purchase either in physical format for 2,000 pounds sterling or as NFTs, with the originals then destroyed. This scheme generated an astronomical sum of $18 million for 10,000 NFTs, with the works allegedly dated 2016, according to Heni, the distributor. However, a Guardian investigation contradicts this claim, revealing that these works were in fact produced between 2018 and 2019 by laborious assistants, working under duress, in almost total anonymity. These revelations cast a harsh light on a possible deception, where dating plays a crucial role in assessing the work’s value and the artist’s reputation. Neither Hirst nor his company have clarified the actual dates, although they have not denied that some works might have a different dating than displayed.

Hirst’s legal team defends the choice of the 2016 date as referring not to the physical production of the works, but to the initial conception of the project, a nuance that, according to them, fits with the artist’s usual practices. If this interpretation holds, many of Hirst’s works might be seen as anachronistic, dated from one era but materialized much later, thus mixing times and techniques.

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