Artist Damien Hirst falsely dated recent sculptures to noteworthy period

Damien Hirst is a brilliant businessman. He's exceptionally good at selling his pieces and being his own brand. Damien Hirst is a name associated with wealth and fame, and has been for the last few decades because he knows how to market, write, know the right people and has continued to stay relevant and rich as a result. His pieces are striking, especially his earlier work that he's best known for, those kinda-beautiful, kinda-nauseating preserved animals in formaldehyde. So it's not surprising to know that the man so adept at selling himself is accused of falsifying work from his most noteworthy period.

Three Damien Hirst sculptures that were made by preserving animals in formaldehyde were dated by his company to the 1990s even though they were made in 2017, an investigation by the Guardian has found.

The trio of works, made by preserving a dove, a shark and two calves, have in recent years been exhibited in galleries in Hong Kong, New York, Munich, London and Oxford as examples of works from the 1990s, his Turner prize-winning period.

However, all three were made by Hirst's employees at a workshop in Dudbridge, Gloucestershire in 2017. The artworks first appeared at an exhibition at Gagosian's Hong Kong art gallery that same year. The show, Visual Candy and Natural History, was billed as an exhibition of the artist's works "from the early to mid-1990s".

Maeve McClenaghan, The Guardian

But is it the actual, physical creation of conceptual art that matters or just the idea? If a work dated 1993 was physically created in 2017, but thought about in 1993, how should the artist date the work? I'd argue that this is ultimately insignificant, and that his lawyers are doing a great job at making this a conceptual debate. This seems like a marketing ploy to me.

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 did sometimes use the date the sculptures were made. "The dating of artworks, and particularly conceptual artworks, is not controlled by any industry standard," they said, adding: "Artists are perfectly entitled to be (and often are) inconsistent in their dating of works."

[…]"It's a big dilemma,'' Hirst said at the time. "Artists and conservators have different opinions about what's important, the original artwork or the original intention. I come from a conceptual art background, so I think it should be the intention. It's the same piece. But the jury will be out for a long time to come."

Maeve McClenaghan, The Guardian

Choosing to give these new pieces dates from his most memorable era will artificially inflate their prices. Art market speculation is complicated and a bit disheartening, but it's essentially a game of relevance, reliant on collectors squirreling away pieces and strategically loaning them to museums to boost the artist's notoriety, which in turn raises the price of the loaned artwork, meaning that the artwork, or asset, has appreciated. Hirst's provenance exemplifies this process. Some artists never see the appraisal of their work, as once their piece leaves the gallery, its value is no longer in their control. Hirst is infamous for maintaining control of his value, in name and with objects, with consistent good and bad press and by bypassing galleries altogether and working directly with auction houses. Whether this stunt will land him in the artworld brig or further cement his standing as a shrewd entrepreneur is unclear, but based on Hirst's three decades of success, I don't think he's going anywhere.