Does Damien Hirst respect people that buy his art? Or does he think they’re losers that deserve to be derided for paying large sums of money for works of “art” that carry the Hirst name? Today’s Sunday Times may provide some clues…
WHEN Sir Trevor Nunn, the theatre director, paid £27,000 for a painting he thought he was getting a genuine Damien Hirst.
Then one night at the theatre he found out that he and his wife, the actress Imogen Stubbs, had bought a painting by two children aged 10 and two.
That at least is the story told by the actor Keith Allen in his autobiography, Grow Up, published this month by Ebury Press. He says that Nunn blanched when he was told.
The painting had been done by Hirst’s son Connor, who was two at the time, and Allen’s 10-year-old boy Alfie, younger brother of the singer Lily Allen.
Allen insists that the children’s painting really was sold to Nunn for the price of an E-class Mercedes.
“Trevor smiled loosely and went off looking white,” said Allen, who played the Sheriff of Nottingham in the BBC television series Robin Hood. “A funny joke, you say. The funny joke was that it was absolutely true.”
This weekend Nunn, 67, whose stage successes include the West End musicals Les Mis-érables and Cats and the opera Porgy and Bess at Covent Garden, declined to discuss his purchase.
The disclosure about the art-work came at a party on the opening night of Harold Pinter’s play The Homecoming at the National Theatre in 1998 in which Allen played Teddy, a philosophy professor. Pinter invited Hirst and his wife Maia to the opening night party.
Allen writes: “Trevor Nunn, who had studiously ignored me up to that moment, was over in a flash, congratulating me on a wonderful performance.
“He swivelled round to address Damien. ‘Ah, Damien, so good to meet you. I have one of your spin paintings’. “ ‘Oh yeah? Which one?’ “The answer was something like ‘Squirly Hoops Touch My Nuts Peace and Love’. “ ‘How much did you pay for it?’ said Damien. “ ‘Oh, er . . .’, said Trevor looking away. “ ‘Go on, how much?’ “ ‘Twenty-seven grand’. “ ‘Oh, right. Well that one was done by Keith’s son Alfie and my son Connor’.”
Allen, 53, refused to be drawn further last week. He laughed when asked about the painting but said he was “too busy” to add any more detail.
Hirst, 42, has accrued a fortune of £130m. But the Turner prize-winner has been criticised for having a “production line” of assistants to churn out his art-works, similar to Andy Warhol’s Factory or the assembly line at Longbridge car plant.
He also collaborated with his son Connor, then two, on a spot painting that was auctioned to raise money for Save the Children. Connor’s contribution was minimal because he could reach only the bottom-right corner.
Good luck selling that skull for $100M…