Source: Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com), by Linda Sandler
'For the love of God' by Damien Hirst.
Damien Hirst, the U.K.'s wealthiest artist, is selling his diamond skull to an investment group for $100 million, said Frank Dunphy, Hirst's business manager.
The platinum skull, studded with 8,601 diamonds, has been on the market at least since June 3, when it went on show at London's White Cube gallery. Dunphy, reached by telephone, said the price hadn't been discounted and would be paid in cash, though he wouldn't say over what period, or identify the investment group.
"Damien is superbly savvy in navigating the international marketplace,'' said Mark Fletcher, a New York-based art adviser, in a telephone interview. "If they indeed sold it at $100 million with no discount, I'm not surprised.''
The skull was part of a Hirst show at the White Cube's two galleries that took in 130 million pounds ($261.7 million), said exhibitions director Tim Marlow on July 17. Including the skull, the total of 180 million pounds would probably break the record for a dealer sale of an artist's works, said Marlow at the time.
The sale is expected to close in three to four weeks, when all the paperwork is finished, Dunphy said. The group of buyers would be required to show the skull for two or three years in museums around the world, he said.
Usually, buyers operating at the $100 million level would get a discount, private dealer Richard Polsky said.
The buyers probably wouldn't be "diamond people,'' because the skull's price was so much higher than the value of the diamond content, said London jeweler and art collector Laurence Graff, who looked at the skull when it was on show and didn't buy it.
"I'm in the diamond business and I would only be interested in diamonds at diamond prices,'' Graff said in a telephone interview today.
The skull's sale would enrich Hirst, 42, whose fortune has been valued at 130 million pounds by the London-based Sunday Times and who may get 75 percent or more of the proceeds of a sale, according to art professionals.
The Art Newspaper, also of London, which reported the talks with the investment group in its September issue, said the skull had been discounted to 38 million pounds, though Dunphy denied that.
At about 50 million pounds, the skull would represent a price increase for Hirst that exceeded even those of Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol, which tripled or quadrupled their auction records in May. Hirst's record of 9.7 million pounds -- the highest for a living artist at auction -- was set in June at Sotheby's, when a telephone bidder bought a pill cabinet, "Lullaby Spring,'' that cost the New York seller about 730,000 pounds in 2002, auctioneers said.
The White Cube shows drew collectors from Eli Broad to five museums who purchased Hirst's works, including at least two from the U.S., according to the gallery.
The singer George Michael paid 3.5 million pounds for "Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain'' -- a glass tank containing a black calf, its suspended body tied to a post and pierced by dozens of arrows. A split shark fetched 10 million pounds and three "crucified'' sheep sold for 6 million pounds, Marlow said.
"The deal was incredibly difficult to negotiate,'' Marlow of the White Cube said today. He also wouldn't discuss the buyers. Hirst's spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment from Hirst.
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