Revealed: Hirst and his dealer both have stake in diamond skull

Found this very interesting article in The Art Newspaper

Damien Hirst’s London gallery White Cube has retained a stake in the artist’s diamond-encrusted skull, For the Love of God. The gallery has taken out an insurance policy for the work prior to its loan to the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg this spring. Under UK law only a party with “an insurable interest” in a work of art can arrange an insurance policy for it. A person generally has an “insurable interest” in something when loss or damage to it would cause that person to suffer a financial loss.

According to a senior source in the insurance industry in London, White Cube’s name appears on the insurance policy for For the Love of God. The insurance has been arranged through the brokers Willis with Hiscox as the lead underwriters and seven other Lloyd’s syndicates also underwriting the deal. The skull has been insured for £50m. Willis and Hiscox declined to comment.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Honey Luard of White Cube said: “White Cube has stewardship of the tour of the diamond skull.” The gallery declined to comment on whether it had retained a stake in the work.

For the Love of God consists of a platinum skull studded with 8,601 diamonds. It first went on public display at White Cube—which is owned by art dealer Jay Jopling—in London last June with an asking price of £50m.

In September we reported that the price had been dropped to £38m. Hirst’s business manager, Frank Dunphy, denied this and said that “a group of investors” had purchased the skull for the “full asking price” of £50m. He also said Damien Hirst had retained a stake in it.

It is not known if this group of investors includes other Hirst associates, such as Mr Dunphy. The only outside investor is said to be hedge funder Nat Rothschild whose fortune is estimated at £1.3 billion by The Sunday Times Rich List. Three sources close to the Hirst market say Mr Rothschild has a stake in the skull. Mr Rothschild denies this.

On 1 November Jopling and Hirst travelled to St Petersburg for the day to meet with Hermitage officials. They were spotted by The Art Newspaper at the Grand Hotel Europe. At the time Jopling told us that he and Hirst were the parties negotiating with the Hermitage for the loan of the skull.

A Hermitage official told us at the beginning of January that For the Love of God was tentatively scheduled to go on display at the museum on 17 April. It had originally been scheduled to go on show in March but this has been delayed to deal with “security issues”.

Geraldine Norman, executive director of the UK Friends of the Hermitage, said today: “The display of Damien Hirst’s skull at the Hermitage is under negotiation. We would like to be the first stop on its world tour.”

The diamond skull will go on a global, three-year tour that Hirst has said will include “the best museums around the world”.

Hirst says that after Russia, the skull might travel to China and South Korea.

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