The Financial Times reported this week that the world's richest artist is ending his partnership with one of the world's richest galleries. As with all Rich People Scandals, it's got everything your heart could desire: mass butterfly graves, lawsuits from British celebrities and Floridian nonagenarian, and snide NYT profiles about Hirst's diminishing value. Here's a look at the "divorce that has rocked the art world" by the numbers.
Long story short, British artist Damien Hirst has been doing these "spot paintings" for a while—they are, literally, paintings of spots; also, technically they are "done" by his assistants—and now he's retrieved them all from collectors and distributed them among 11 Gagosian Galleries in eight countries, and is offering a free art to anyone who goes and sees every single spot painting. In all eight countries. So this is officially a "thing," because it is [whatever word adequately communicates an aggravated eye roll], and since we have nothing of value to say about it really, we will defer to Sister Wendy's spiritual successor Hennessy Youngman, who previously taught us so much about poststructuralism and relational aesthetics on his wonderful show Art Thoughtz.
Damien Hirst thrives on creating controversy. (One of his first works to garner attention was that dead shark suspended in formaldehyde, which is now part of hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen's collection.) So it's hardly a surprise that he's stirring the pot once again. But this time Lance Armstrong gets to go along for the ride.
Suze Orman turns 58 today. Billionaire financier Pete Peterson is turning 83. Teen Vogue editor Amy Astley is 42. Post columnist Andrea Peyser is turning 50. Journalist Bill Moyers is 75. Mark Wahlberg is turning 38. Pete Wentz is 30. Author Chuck Klosterman is 37. Comedian Jeff Garlin is 46. Laurie Anderson, the musician and wife of Lou Reed, is 62. Actor Ron Livingston is turning 42. Art advisor Kim Heirston turns 46. Housing Works president Charles King is 50. Kristin Gore, the author and daughter of Al Gore, turns 32. Movie producer Kathleen Kennedy is 56. And Kenny G celebrates his 53rd birthday today. Weekend birthdays below:
• Believe it or not, but some celebrities have been forced to wear the same outfit twice now that we're in the middle of a recession. Or (like Lindsay Lohan, left) they're now passing their hand-me-downs to family members. Sad times, friends, sad times. [NYDN]
• A preview of the 60 Minutes segment on Anna Wintour (which airs Sunday) is online for your viewing pleasure. [NYM]
• Phillip Lim is expanding into bathing suits, shoes, and lingerie. [Pipeline]
• A visit to Betsey Johnson's house in East Hampton. [Hamptons.com]
• Matthew Williamson's second H&M collection hits stores tomorrow. [Racked]
• Catfight! A roundup of fashion's biggest feuds ever. [TDB]
Last year sad old party boy Jay McInerney went to Art Basel Miami Beach, the American version of the fabulous Swiss art fair, and dutifully chronicled the schmoozy, hideous glitz of its high-end billionaire clientele, its so-un-self-aware-it's-almost-hip pretension, its insanely high sales figures. What a horror show it was! A horror show that stands to be repeated this year (December 4th - 7th) except for one tiny problem: ain't but nobody buyin' art in these penurious and precarious times. So what will the champagne and caviar-dribbled festivities look like compared to last year? We'll take some of our favorite McInerney anecdotes from last year and reimagine them for this ruined age after the jump.
Damien Hirst isn't the least bit troubled about last week's disappointing art auctions, or that one of his own works, a painting of four skulls called "Beautiful Artemis Thor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting," found no takers. It's actually a good thing! Hirst now says the art market was overpriced up until recently, and that his painting wasn't worth $3 million anyway: "It was bought from me less than a year ago at half the price. In a way it's good. We are looking at more realistic prices. People who bought things are not going to sell them that day. That is what an artist wants, for people to hang the works on their wall." Perhaps this means that Hirst, who is now reportedly worth more than $350 million, is planning to issue refunds to collectors who bought in at the peak? Not so much! "Art is worth what the next guy is prepared to pay," he says. But he does plan to adjust prices when he unveils his next batch of work. "If I want to sell new work, I'll price it lower."
You would think that after the dismal performances of the contemporary art sales at Christie's and Sotheby's earlier this week, sellers might recognize the need to reduce reserve prices if they were to have any hope of selling anything. At Phillips de Pury & Co.'s auction last night, estimates set before the markers unraveled remained in place, despite the fact that the auction house had tried to persuade people that the figures were now too optimistic. Sellers "had a luxury of eight years of the climbing prices,'' said Phillips senior partner Michael McGinnis. "They were not receptive.''
Not even the presence of high-profile collectors like Steve Martin, Valentino, and billionaire Eli Broad (who dropped $8 million on works by Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, and Donald Judd) could save last night's Sotheby's contemporary art sale from being a big disappointment. Twenty paintings, including a Lichtenstein and a Damien Hirst, were left on the block, and the total tally was $125.1 million, far below the conservative presale estimate of $202.4 million. One genre that's apparently recession proof: John Currin and his trademark boobies. His "Nice 'n' Easy," an oil of two curvaceous naked women, went for a record $5.4 million. [NYT, Bloomberg]
♦ A first look at Charlotte Ronson's line for JCPenney, I Heart Ronson, and her new $30 dresses. [Nylon]
♦ Details on the cuts at Men's Vogue: The mag will be published just two times next year and publisher Marc Berger is leaving. The fate of other staffers is unclear. [Mediaweek]
♦ Damien Hirst's latest collaboration with Levi's includes pairs of jeans for $230 and $83 t-shirts. [WWD]
♦ Plastic surgeons report interest in cosmetic procedures is dropping fast. [NYT]
The huge sum of $125 million for animal-loving British artist Damien Hirst's London Sotheby's auction set a new record for a sale of a single artist's work, which should be a relief for the contemporary art market. "Golden Calf," a bull suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, sold for $18 million and also became the highest price of a Hirst sold ever. "The Kingdom," a shark also preserved in formaldehyde, sold for $17 million. But it isn't good news for everyone in the art world. What's really significant about the sale is that Hirst is selling over two hundred of his works to Sotheby's directly. This cuts his dealer completely out of a commission, which may be great money for Hirst and the art market, but is a bad precedent to set for gallerists—all the time they spent supporting young artists, only to be abandoned when they hit big.
American hedge funders might be too nervous to blow millions on contemporary art at the moment, but thank God for the Russians and Arabs. Damien Hirst's auction at Sotheby's in London last night turned out to be a big success notwithstanding the Wall Street meltdown, with 54 new pieces selling for a total of $127 million. [Reuters]