Home World Damien Hirst’s The Shark, sold for around $8 million, is the fourth work of 2017 from the 1990s

Damien Hirst’s The Shark, sold for around $8 million, is the fourth work of 2017 from the 1990s

0 comment
Damien Hirst's The Shark, sold for around $8 million, is the fourth work of 2017 from the 1990s

A Damien Hirst shark preserved in formaldehyde purchased by American billionaires was dated to the 1990s even though it was only manufactured in 2017.

The 4-meter (13-foot) tiger shark, divided into three parts, is the centerpiece of a luxury bar at the Palms casino resort in Las Vegas. It first appeared in the casino six years ago, under the title: The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded), 1999.

However, a Guardian investigation established that it was made in 2017, almost two decades after the date publicly attributed to the work. The sculpture was purchased by billionaire brothers Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III, at a cost of approximately $8 million.

The enormous shark is the fourth formaldehyde sculpture by Hirst known to have been made in 2017, although it is dated to the 1990s. The other three, made with a dove, a small shark and two calves, were exhibited these In recent years, in the 1990s, in galleries in Hong Kong, New York, Oxford and London.

The revelation that some of Hirst’s formaldehyde works were given dates that do not match the dates they were physically made has rocked the contemporary art world this week.

“Cases like this do little to allay doubts about the lack of transparency in the art world,” said Jo Baring, former director of the UK auction house Christie’s. “Hirst is an artist who wields so much power that he is in high demand by museums who want to increase their ticket sales, but also by collectors who want to own a touch of stardust. But this power means people are afraid to challenge or ask questions. »

Hirst did not directly respond to questions asked about the tiger shark piece, The Unknown. Sources close to the creation of the sculpture said it was made in 2017 in preparation for its installation in the hotel.

The shark sculpture was purchased by the billionaire Fertitta brothers for an estimated $8 million. Photograph: Isaac Brekken/Los Angeles Times

When first revealed to great fanfare in 2018, the never-before-seen tiger shark was described by the casino as a piece from the 1990s. The date “1999” was contained in the title of the work, usually provided by the artist, and included in the promotional material.

Dates assigned to works of art generally refer to the year they were completed. However, in response to questions from the Guardian, Hirst’s company Science Ltd said the date the artist assigned to the formaldehyde works did not represent the date they were made.

“Formaldehyde works are conceptual works of art and the date Damien Hirst assigns to them is the date the work was conceived,” the company says. “Over the years he was clear when asked what was important in conceptual art; it is not about the physical making of the object or the renewal of its parts, but rather the intention and idea behind the work of art.

Hirst’s lawyers later clarified that while using the date of conception in the title was the artist’s “usual approach” for formaldehyde works, he sometimes used the date the sculptures were made. “The dating of artwork, and particularly conceptual artwork, is not controlled by any industry standard,” they said, adding: “Artists have every right to be (and often are ) inconsistent in the dating of their works.”

This approach, however, seems to contradict widely held norms in the art world. Jon Sharples, a respected art and intellectual property lawyer, said Hirst’s works were bought and sold in a market that took origin and provenance extremely seriously.

“When a single date is mentioned in the title of a work of art, the convention is, and I think most people would understand that to mean that the work was first physically made that that year,” he said. In this context, he recommends that sellers and artists “prioritize transparency” when it comes to dating their works.

Baring, who is director of the Ingram collection of modern British and contemporary art, agreed with the convention. “There is certainly a good practice, which is to give the date of physical creation of a work, or if there is a big difference between conception and creation, to give both dates,” she said. declared.

It is unclear what information the Fertitta brothers received about the origins of the shark sculpture when they purchased it. The brothers, who sold the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the mixed martial arts promotion company for $4 billion in 2016, declined to comment. So did the Palms resort, which is now under different ownership.

In 2018, the Palms’ chief executive gave an interview with the LA Times in which he suggested the brothers paid a similar amount for the shark to what American billionaire Steve Cohen paid for a comparable tiger shark in 2004. Estimates vary for the cost of this piece, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), a slightly larger tiger shark. However, it reportedly cost Cohen between $8 million and $12 million.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) exhibited at the Tate Modern, London in 2012. Photography: Kerim Ökten/EPA

Whatever price the Fertitta brothers paid for their Hirst shark, it increased their already large collection of the artist’s work, which they had been building for years. After purchasing the Palms casino and hotel in 2016, they began filling it with contemporary art by Hirst and others. The hotel still has a luxury suite designed by Hirst, which costs $75,000 a night.

But it was the shark that was the crowning glory of the Palms resort’s $620 million renovation. It was brought in obscurity, installed in secret, and the unveiling of the sculpture in May 2018 received widespread attention from the American press.

In press materials distributed to media and magazines, the Palms Casino announced the official title of the work, as well as its date “1999”. The same date was used in licensed photographs of the sculpture and in sponsored content paid for by the casino that described the piece as “an important work in the artist’s natural history series.”

Do you have any information on this story? Email maeve.mcclenaghan@theguardian.com or (using a non-work phone) use Signal or WhatsApp to message +44 7721 857348.

The Fertitta brothers sold the Palms Casino in December 2021 to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. A resort source said the shark sculpture would remain on loan to the venue until at least 2025.

Hirst has rarely made public remarks about the work, although he has occasionally posted them on his Instagram account. He did so, for example, in May 2018, shortly after the shark was installed, and just months after it was now known to have been made in his workshop in Dudbridge, Gloucestershire.

“I’ve known Frank and Lorenzo for years, so when they asked if they could put my shark sculpture from their collection – ‘The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded)’ – in the bar @Palm trees I thought it sounded good,” he wrote.

In a more recent Instagram post, from September 2022, Hirst posted three photos of himself decked out in gold jewelry posing in front of the sculpture, which was five years old at the time. In one of them, he winks.

<gu-island name="UnsafeEmbedBlockComponent" priority="feature" deferuntil="visible" props="{"html":"

“,”alt”:”Hirst Instagram post”,”index”:27,”isTracking”:true,”isMainMedia”:false,”source”:”Instagram”,”sourceDomain”:”instagram.com”}” config =”{“renderingTarget”:”Web”,”darkModeAvailable”:false}”>

Allow Instagram content?

This article includes content provided by Instagram. We ask for your permission before uploading anything, as they may use cookies and other technologies. To view this content, click “Allow and continue”.

“If you’re near Vegas, go to my unknown bar at @Palm trees casino and have a drink! he wrote. “Thank you to everyone at the Palms for keeping my art looking so good!!”

Additional reporting by Dan Hernandez in Las Vegas

You may also like