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.


Damien Hirst

”Art is like medicine – it can heal. Yet I’ve always been amazed at how many people believe in medicine but don’t believe in art, without questioning either.” – Damien Hirst

Born in 1965 in Bristol, Damien Hirst grew up in Leeds and subsequently went to Goldsmith’s College in London. Between 1988 and 1990 he curated a series of art exhibitions by his contemporaries including the highly acclaimed group shows Freeze, Modern Medicine and Gambler.

In his own art Damien Hirst has continually challenged the boundaries between art, science, the media and popular culture. A 12-foot tiger shark, a cow and her calf sawn in two, pharmacy bottles, house paint poured onto spinning canvases, spot paintings, cigarette butts, medicine cabinets, office furniture, medical instruments, butterflies and tropical fish are just some of the means Damien Hirst employs to communicate his unflinching view of the ambiguity at the heart of human experience. Damien Hirst has said ”I am going to die and I want to live forever. I can’t escape the fact, and I can’t let go of the desire.”


Damien Hirst original limited edition prints, drawings and paintings continue to increase in popularity, demand and price. In 2004 his Pharmacy sale at Sothebys was expected to make o3 million GBP but instead recorded sales of o11 million GBP. There is no doubt that Damien Hirst is destined to continue his number one position in the British art market and has recently been compared to Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso in terms of popularity and rising prices.

Last Supper

Much of his Damien Hirst prints can be divided into three areas: Spots, Spins and Pharmaceutical. His spot etchings and lambda prints such as Valium, Opium, LSD, Methaphetamine, Tetrahydracannabinol and Cineole lull the viewer into an optimistic and peaceful state. Hirst spin etchings, In a Spin, the Action of the World on Things (Volumes I and II) created by using spinning plates, etching tools, brushes and acid mesmerise the onlooker. His pharmaceutical prints, especially the Last Supper portfolio draws upon the parallels of art and medicine as ”healers’. The metaphoric title distances the onlooker from the art to a point but also seems suggestive, perhaps also including the biblical fact of St Matthew the disciple as a physician – or indeed St Damien the Doctor (usually iconographically depicted with St Cosmas).

Making Beautiful Drawings

Damien Hirst has had exhibitions in galleries and museums throughout the world. In 1994 Hirst received the DAAD fellowship in Berlin and the Turner Prize in 1995.The Marble Palace at the Russian State Museum, Llubljana made a solo exhibition of Hirst’s drawings in 2003 as part of the 25th International Graphic Biennale. In 2004, Damien Hirst collaborated with Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst on an exhibition of recent works entitled In-a-Gadda-da-Vida at Tate Britain and presented a survey of key works from 1989-2004 at the Museo Nazionale Archaeologico de Naples.