They are two of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the international art world so the rumour mill went into overdrive on Friday after it was revealed that Damien Hirst is to part company with his New York dealer, Larry Gagosian.
After a year in which Hirst had an unprecedented exhibition of his spot paintings at all 11 Gagosian galleries around the world, it was announced that the 17-year working relationship was to come to an abrupt end.
A statement from Hirst and his company Science Ltd said: “Damien Hirst has decided to cease working with Gagosian gallery.
“Damien has had a fantastic and productive working relationship with Gagosian gallery, but after 17 years of representing him Larry Gagosian and Damien have reached an amicable decision to part company.
“White Cube will continue to represent Damien Hirst internationally through their galleries in London, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo.”
The Gagosian said in a statement: “It has been a great honour to work with Damien over the last 17 years, culminating with the worldwide showing of the Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011 at all 11 Gagosian galleries earlier this year. His retrospective at Tate Modern in the summer was the most popular solo show in the history of the museum, drawing close to half a million visitors – an extraordinary achievement. We wish him continued success for the future.”
Hirst, whose wealth is estimated at £215m, has not always played by artist-dealer rules; in 2008 – before the financial crash – he bypassed Gagosian and White Cube to sell his art for more than £111m at a one-off sale at Sotheby’s.
His 2012 retrospective at Tate Modern this summer was the most visited solo exhibition ever held at the gallery, with 463,087 visitors – ahead of Edward Hopper in 2004 and Paul Gauguin in 2010-11. A few thousand more and it could have beaten the most visited exhibition in the Tate Modern’s history – the Matisse-Picasso show in 2002, which had 467,166 visitors.
But his exhibition of new paintings at the White Cube gallery – Two Weeks One Summer – was panned, almost as much as his 2009 paintings show at the Wallace Collection. In May the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones wrote: “The last time I saw paintings as deluded as Damien Hirst’s latest works, the artist’s name was Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.”
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