damien hirst

From a Sudden New Super-Gallery to Drake and Damien Hirst’s Odd Album Art: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week


Shredded Banksy Makes a Pricey Return The infamous Banksy painting that self-shredded at auction in a Sotheby’s auction in October 2018 is returning to the auction house this fall—with a now-quadrupled low estimate of $5.5 million. 

Virginia Gets the Greenlight The state can now finally take down a Confederate monument of Robert E. Lee after a ruling against two lawsuits that sought to block its removal.

A New Museum for Uruguay  One of Uruguay’s more prominent artists is bankrolling the creation of the country’s first contemporary art museum and is slated to open in the beginning of 2022. 

Arthur’s Stone Excavated Archeologists have found the original form of Arthur’s Stone, an ancient stone structure that inspired C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia.”

Bank of England Bids Portraits Good Riddance  – The Bank of England has removed 8 paintings and 2 busts depicting former directors connected to the Slave Trade. 

Rule of Two? Johanna Burton has been named executive director of L.A. MOCA, a new position that will essentially split the duties of Klaus Biesenbach, the museum’s current director.

The Met Uncovers a Hidden Neoclassical Portrait Conservators at the Met discovered a hidden composition under Jacques Louis David’s portrait of famed chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and his wife. While the final painting pictures the pair as liberal leaders of science, the earlier composition had presented the two as self-satisfied nobles. Talk about rebranding!

A Duped Banksy NFT Collector Refunded by Scammer A scammer with a heart of gold returned $336,000 to a digital art collector who bought a fake Banksy NFT. 

Gallery Tetrarchy Forms in the Upper East Side Lévy Gorvy, Salon 94, and Amalia Dayan have consolidated power to form a new gallery which shall be called… LGDR.

Michelangelo Left (Literally) Small Shoes to Fill? Undoubtedly a giant of art history, Michelangelo might actually have been petite in stature. Researchers in Italy have estimated his height based on studies of the Renaissance artist’s shoes. 

Bored Apes, Explained  Midnight Publishing Group News Pro columnist Amy Castor explains just what the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” is and why people are paying big money for ape avatars at auction (hint: it involves a secret serum). 

 

The Monuments Men Call Out the MFAHIn an op-ed, Head of the Monuments Men foundation Robert Edsel lays out the case that the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston should return an artwork in its collection that was once purchased by the Nazis.

Hard Times in the Big EasyWhile New Orleans museums and cultural organizations escaped the worst of Hurricane Ida’s damage, ongoing power outages pose lingering threats.

A Battle for Equitable Arts Funding Rattles D.C. –  Zachary Small reports that the cultural sector in Washington, D.C., is turning in on itself, with institutions and activists at odds. 

Guggenheim Bilbao Debuts a Head-Scratching Rap Video This week the Guggenheim Bilbao dropped a rap video in the hope of raising funds to repair its Jeff Koons puppy sculpture: “It’s the ‘P’ with the ‘U’ with the ‘P’ with the ‘P’ with the ‘Y.’ So please don’t kill my vibe.” God help us, it’s been in our heads all week.

Drake’s Bizarre New Album Cover Designed by Damien Hirst –  When Drake revealed the album art for his forthcoming “Certified Lover Boy” designed by Hirst, Twitter users went wild with speculations over the odd emoji-centric composition.

An Immersive Banksy Show Opens in New York (to the Artist’s Chagrin)  Brian Boucher headed to “Banksy: Genius or Vandal?” to give us the lowdown on the latest (unauthorized) immersive experience.

Auctions Go Into Orbit – Ben Davis digs into the burgeoning, dubious movement to take art auctions into outer space.

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Damien Hirst’s NFT Initiative, Which Asks Buyers to Choose Between a Digital Token and IRL Art, Has Already Generated $25 Million


Earlier this summer, Damien Hirst announced his latest project: a showy NFT initiative called “The Currency.” It involved selling 10,000 unique hand-painted dot-covered works on paper, each one corresponding to a nonfungible token. But wait, there’s more.

Each of the hybrid print-NFTs, available to collectors at the low, low price of $2,000, has a very particular stipulation. Buyers would have one year to decide if they wanted to keep the NFT, in which case the physical artwork would be ceremonially burned. Or they could keep the physical work, and relinquish rights to the blockchain-based artwork.

In essence, “The Currency” pitted Hirst’s foray into the new world of digital art against his old-school practice, asking the art market to decide which was more valuable. (At the height of Hirst’s market heat in 2007, a work on paper by the artist sold for more than $393,065.)

At the time, it sure sounded like Hirst was, ahem, jumping the shark, with a philosophical gimmick, but just about two months into the project’s debut, the artist took to social media to announce that sales generated by “The Currency” have reached $25 million already.

The graph of Hirst's NFT sales from "The Currency." Courtesy of HENI.

The graph of Hirst’s NFT sales from “The Currency.” Courtesy of HENI.

A statement posted today to the Discord server by HENI Analytics, an arm of the company that partnered with Hirst on the project, broke down the sales for the past six, 12, and 24 hours for the NFT works. In the last 24 hours, 14 sales totaling almost $400,000 were recorded, with a maximum price of $43,204 and minimum price of $3,694.

Since the project launched in July, there have been a total of 1,571 sales on secondary market NFT platforms adding up to just a bit more than even the whopping eight-figure Hirst boasted about, at $26,345,475.

The maximum price paid so far sits at $120,614 for a work titled Yes, which is considered one of the rarer of the pieces in the series because it has a single word title. HENI ranks each of the works in “The Currency” for its rarity based on algorithms that analyze density of the spots, colors used, and what kind of words are in each title, which all come from Hirst’s favorite songs.

OpenSea’s public data on the project confirm the basic trends suggested by HENI and Hirst. It shows that the floor price (or lowest available price) for an NFT from “The Currency” sits at 8.8 ETH, or $28,500, more than 10 times its original price. (The OpenSea floor price is updated hourly.)

According to OpenSea snapshot of the project, by far the most active day in the trading history of “The Currency” was August 14, when 249 of the NFTs changed hands. In recent days things have settled down considerably, with anywhere between 10 and 20 sales per day.

One recent sale, for the work A Way of Life, was originally listed 10 days ago on the secondary market by its owner @Quality for 18.88 Ethereum (over $60,800). Finding no takers, it was re-listed a day later for 8.8 Ethereum (or $28,500). At that price it was sold to @syzygyfinance 8 days ago for 8.49 Ethereum ($27,200), which re-listed A Way of Life just two days later for 14.8 Ethereum (or $47,800).

Today @syzygyfinance adjusted its asking price down to 9.75 Ethereum ($31,300), and sold it at that price to @liquiddyor, realizing about $4,000 in profit on the flip.

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Damien Hirst Chats With Friend and Fellow Artist Wes Lang About Life, Death, and His New Show in Aspen


Even before Kanye tapped Wes Lang to design the t-shirts for his blockbuster Yeezus tour in 2013, Lang’s illustrations and paintings—a spiky synthesis of pop culture icons, Wild West mythology, and callouts to the giants of postwar art—had courted controversy and caught the eye of collectors, including none other than Damien Hirst.

No wonder: the two artists share a fixation on death and its opposite, living, that has only been heightened during the pandemic. Below, Hirst quizzes Lang about his creative process, art-world absence, around his upcoming show at Almine Rech Aspen.

Damien Hirst: As you know, I’m a huge Wes Lang fan, and I got some brilliant works from you. I’ve visited you in your sprawling studio in L.A. and seen your creative process in action, but what else can you tell me about your rhythms and rituals? What gets you out of bed in the morning? How do you find your pathway through the darkness?

Wes Lang: I paint in my studio in downtown Los Angeles, the one you visited me in, but—and I’m sure you can relate—I’m never not working in my brain. I typically have upwards of 30 paintings going at the same time. I like to have many things out in the studio so that if I’m not motivated by one body of work, I can move to another. It’s always been important to me that I don’t get stuck being an artist that makes one signature painting that looks like every painting that preceded it. The older I get, I hope you can see the cohesion among all my bodies of work if you take the time to sit and study them. I was incredibly inspired by what you did with the “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” exhibition in Venice a few years ago. I recently started a new body of work that I plan to take the next five to six years on. It will be grand, ambitious, and—if I’m lucky—beyond what anyone thinks I am capable of.

Jay-Z and Wes Lang. Photo: Eric Minh Swenson/Splash News

Jay-Z and Wes Lang. Photo: Eric Minh Swenson/Splash News

DH: You’ve stayed pretty “off the grid” for the last decade. Why is that? Can you share a little about this recent period and what’s come out of it?

WL: I was living in New York and had been working with a gallery for many years. I wasn’t happy with the direction they were pointing me in and it didn’t feel like the support I needed anymore. So, I left them and took a gamble in the spring of 2011 by renting a room at the Chateau Marmont for six weeks. I took every penny I had and rolled the dice, living as though I was supposed to be there. That culminated in a one-night exhibition in the penthouse. It was wildly successful and totally changed my financial state. It showed me that I was right, that there was a world in which I could do things on my own terms. In 2012 I decided to move to L.A. permanently. I packed my car, drove across the country and moved back into the Chateau Marmont. I just knew I had to be here.

I remained without a gallery for a stretch, because it seemed like every time I picked up a paintbrush and made something, people wanted to come to my studio and buy it. I was able to make whatever I wanted and sell directly to my clients. I’m an introvert, really, but like all artists I want my work to make its mark in the world. I saw that I was going to be able to do just that if I could take complete and total control of what I was doing. That brought you into my life, and you gave me an opportunity that was and continues to be life-changing. I don’t know how much of this you want to be publicly known—and we can edit this out if you want—but you gave me an opportunity to make a large body of work over a period of time that freed me up to do what I wanted, without the necessity of a gallery. Having you believe in what I was doing at that point in late 2013 was really a clear eureka moment for me, and one that I will be forever grateful for.

DH: Say what you want, brother, we don’t need to edit anything out. I know you work at a crazy pace and make tons of art and you’re a hoarder. Do you have an Aladdin’s cave filled with lots of works that people have never seen before?

WL: Tons. At the time, social media was starting to take over the art world, and I really didn’t want to participate. If you look me up online, you don’t see much past 2009 besides little bits here and there—which I’m totally O.K. with, by the way. It’s how I want it. But now I have a big book coming out this year titled Everything that is being published by Rizzoli. It won’t reveal even close to all the works I’ve ever made, but it will be a well-selected survey of works from the 1990s until present day.

The flip side of working independently for so long is that very few of my paintings were seen publicly. A few years ago, at the exact moment when things became unmanageable, between both creating the work and running the business of selling my work, I mentally put it out there into the universe that I needed help. Almine Rech showed up at my studio in the latter half of 2019, and we started working together, which has been fantastic. I greatly admire what she’s done and why she does it. So it was just the perfect storm.

Wes Lang, Big Time Believer, 2021. © Wes Lang, courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Wes Lang Studio.

DH: Your work is full of symbols, especially symbols of death—Grim Reapers, skulls. But are they celebratory? A provocation? Where do you get your inspiration for all this iconography? What does it mean to you?

WL: They’re definitely a celebration. There’s nothing morbid about what I’m doing. I intend for my paintings to be joyful reminders of how lucky we are to be alive and to make the most of it while we have the opportunity to do so. The symbols are representations of the freedom we all strive for.

I’m also influenced by other artists, some of whom I unabashedly steal things from, as I’m sure you have. Art is a great, long conversation among the people who are willing to make it their life’s pursuit. Anything that I look up to is itself riddled with appropriation. I know, for instance, that you and I have a common interest in Francis Bacon. He made his whole life studying a very focused group of art by very specific people. All the great artists are influenced by their predecessors. As Jean-Michel Basquiat once put it, ‘You’ve got to realize that influence is not influence. It’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.’ If you can look to the past and learn, that’s how you can become great. Without any shame, I look to the great artists of the past to help me do just that.

DH: You’ve definitely never been afraid of appropriation, like with the Native American motifs. Has the way that debate has evolved in the last year or two changed your approach?

WL: My earliest memories are of toys, ads in the back of comic books, and novelty store catalogs. I would just collect and collect, holding onto these little talismans. They were so personal, I wouldn’t let anyone see them. I knew back then I would be an artist. To this day I still spend countless hours hunting for reference material. New characters may enter, but they are all still part of that same Wes Lang universe.

I’ve never looked at what I do as being provocative. So have I changed what I’ve been doing in the last couple years? No. I’ve never really changed what I do, and I don’t intend to. I am fighting my battle on the side of truth. We’re here with a purpose, to live and make the most out of this complicated and wonderful world while we can. That’s solely and completely what my work is about.

Wes Lang, No. 2 In E Minor, 2021. © Wes Lang, courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Wes Lang Studio.

DH: What are you most interested in creating these days? What’s driving your practice through this fucking weird world-ending period we are all living in and adapting to now?

WL: The last year and a half, with the lockdowns and deaths upon deaths surrounding us, has taken me on all different kinds of rollercoasters. I’ve been painting the world’s events more than I used to, but trying to find the positives amid the hellish mire we are swimming through. I feel that for artists, if you’re not paying attention to the situation and it’s not affecting what you’re creating, you’re not doing your job. Artists owe it to the world to speak about this situation. So there are works I’ve been making that are quite apocalyptic. I’ve always been obsessed with Pieter Breughel the Elder’s painting The Triumph of Death, ca. 1562–63. I’ve struggled with talking to this painting my entire adult life. I have always wanted to reinterpret it with my own version; however, it was impossible to truly tap into what Brueghel was doing because I didn’t live through the reality in which he painted it. But now I’m living through our own version of the plague. There’s a plague on the health of people, and there’s a plague on our minds happening at the exact same time. And a plague on the rights of people. There’s been no other time like now. On the other side of that, now that things are opening up and people are feeling better, my works are becoming extremely positive and bright and full of hope for a better world. Despite the scary aspects of it all, I’ve used this time as an opportunity to try to get even better at what I do. These days I feel unstoppable in the studio.

The building in Aspen housing pop ups by Lehman Maupin, Carpenters Workshop and Almine Rech. Courtesy: Lehman Maupin

DH: What can you tell me about your show in Aspen?

WL: I created a series of medium-to-large-scale paintings called “Endless Horizons.” I think they are all portraits of how I’m starting to feel, and how I want to continue feeling. I’ve been calling them propaganda posters for positivity. The words, images, compositions, and the colors in these paintings are very vibrant, playful, and lively. They feel like they are plugged into the wall; there’s a great electricity to them. That’s how I’m feeling in my brain and I’m just trying to put that across in the canvas. I’m pretty sure I’ve succeeded at it with this series. I’ve looked back to some of the earliest influences in my work, like Ellsworth Kelly, Martin Kippenberger, and Mark Rothko. Things that really blew my mind. So compositionally I was definitely influenced by them, especially in the backgrounds. Something that may strike people as “new” is actually something I’ve been doing forever, which is the use of lettering as opposed to handwriting. In my late teens I was a sign painter, and the only college course I ever took was a lettering and layout class at a community college in New Jersey in 1991. It taught me how to have a steady hand, and how to pull good lines and curves. For some reason with these paintings I felt that I needed to use fonts. So there are bold, mantra-like statements and phrases: “There Is Magic… Here It Is… And It Is Just So… Wonderful… Only This Moment Is Real, Where The Light Enters You… .” If you allow yourself, you will see something bright and new and positive, and if you know what I do you will know it’s rooted in practices that I’ve been doing for many years, and hopefully will be doing for many more years to come.

DH: You’ve spoken about how some of your artistic practice is rooted in studying and practicing the Tao Te Ching, using it as a sort of manual for living life. How does this play out in your work?

WL: I want my work to make people feel good, but that’s only going to happen if I feel good.

The Tao Te Ching really is the only thing that I’ve ever found that makes real sense to me. It helps you shed the detrimental sides of your ego and allows you to push yourself to be exactly who you want to be. Most of time we look to outside sources to make us feel better instead of looking inside and understanding that everything we’ve ever wanted is already there, and really always has been. If you study the Tao and look at it with an open mind, you can understand that this world is set up for you to succeed if you let it. The more you try to push XYZ to happen for you, the less likely it is that it will happen—quite often it will produce the opposite result. The older I get, the more I let go and try to let the world show me what it is that I’m supposed to be doing. The attention you need is often markedly different from the attention you think you need.

Endless Horizons” is on view at Almine Rech Aspen, August 27–September 12, 2021

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From Kim Kardashian’s Art Drama to the Met Museum’s Divisive Decision: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week


Artists and Lovers – Midnight Publishing Group News’s Katie White delves into the torrid, turbulent, and touching love stories that shaped art history on this week’s Art Angle podcast.

The Photo in the Attic – A man opened up a locked door in his attic to discover a trove of historical photographs, including a famous portrait of Susan B. Anthony.

Breakfast Fit for an Emperor – Archaeologists at Hadrian’s sprawling villa in Italy have discovered the chamber where they believe he had breakfast every morning.

What’s In the Cards? – Art world soothsayer Sarah Potter predicts what’s in store for the industry in 2021—and it may surprise you.

Damien Hirst Turns Curator – The former YBA is taking over Gagosian’s Britannia Street Gallery in London for an entire year as curator.

Nikes Fit for a President – Sotheby’s is auctioning off a pair of Nike sneakers designed for Barack Obama to kick off Presidents Day—for a mere $25,000.

Kim Kardashian’s Artist Daughter – The Internet went berserk this week when KKW posted a painting by her daughter North West, and then had to defend the youngster’s work against haters who thought it was fake.

Basquiat Could Break Record – A 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat could become the most expensive work by a Western artist to sell in Asia.

 

Reckoning With a Dark Legacy – The victims of Viennese Actionist artist Otto Muehl’s years-long abuse are reckoning with the artist’s legacy years after his death.

All Talk, No Action – Museums have promised to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, but workers have seen little evidence of new policies being implemented.

Met Staffers Speak Out – After its director said he’d consider selling art to help buffer financial fallout, staffers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are criticizing what could set a dangerous precedent.

Christie’s Closes Auction Archive – In light of budget cuts, the auction house closed its much-used London archive to the public.

SFMOMA Director to Depart – The nearly 20-year veteran director Neal Benezra is leaving the San Francisco museum after a tough year.

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