Damien Hirst has revealed how making £200million just two days before the financial crisis was in fact the beginning of a slippery financial slope.
In an interview with the Idler magazine, Hirst reveals how making millions, soon turned into loosing millions. “People say: it’s easy to make a fortune, but it’s hard to hold on to one.”
And Hirst certainly did make it look easy: two days before the Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, Hirst says he made £200million at the now-historic auction at Sotheby’s.
This became a common theme, and he recalls his manager saying to him: “You’ve had another double rollover lottery weekend.” I’d make £30 or £40million between Friday and Monday.”
However, Hirst soon found that living to excess – “My last hangover went on for two weeks, I measured it,” one of his restaurants losing £20,000 a month and a bulging staff – soon meant he was “in a dark room. I couldn’t see out…Loads of employees and responsibility but not tools to get out.”
Of his ever-increasing band of employees he said: “You start by thinking you’ll get one assistant and before you know it, you’ve got biographers, fire-eaters, f***ing minstrels and lyre players all wandering around. They’re saying they are not being paid enough and they all need assistants. Then one night you ask the lyre player to play and they say: ‘My lyre is all scratched up I did ask for a lyre technician.’ Before you know it, suddenly you’ve got an overdraft when before you had loads of cash.”
Hirst complained that his office staff “looked down on the people making the art as skivvies. The office workers were taking taxis and flying premium and the artists were flying economy and hiring coaches. They are not just workers, they are making the art.”
This eventually resulted in him making 50 staff redundant in 2018, saying that employing that number of people was simply “unsustainable.”
In the end this meant that Hirst “started to have to sell my art collection…It became a big f***ing ugly monster.”
Fortunately for Hirst, as proved by his epic 2017 Venice Biennale shipwreck and the new chapel he is currently designing at Château Lacoste, there is still endless demand for his own creations—and the bigger, the better.