Follow Us on Twitter

British Museum acquires Damien Hirst works

Auction Day! Franks New Watch

A COLLECTION of 73 portraits of Frank Dunphy by Damien Hirst, known as The Wolseley Drawings, has been generously donated by Frank Dunphy through the Cultural Gifts Scheme and allocated to the British Museum.

Frank Dunphy masterminded many important sales of Hirst’s work, during his time as his business manager and agent throughout the 90s and 2000s. Meeting for breakfast at the Wolseley in Mayfair, the pair would discuss their business affairs; it was during these meetings from 2004 to 2010 that Hirst produced these 73 portraits drawn on the back of the Wolseley restaurant’s 22cm diameter placemats.

Hirst would rest a placemat on his knee, so that they were out of sight of passers-by, and begin to sketch in pen or pencil. Some of the portraits are stained with coffee and food from the breakfasts. Many are humorous, such as the portrayal of Dunphy as a boiled egg – drawn after a discussion between the pair as to whether it was best to open a boiled egg at its pointed or flat end!

On others Hirst frequently alludes to auction dates of his own works, with titles including FRANKPHARMACY AUCTION DAY! and SKULLDUGGERY DAY, the latter referring to the sale of his diamond and platinum skull sculpture, For the Love of God.

The Wolseley Drawings provide a fascinating insight into one of the most important business relationships in contemporary British art, carrying with them the story of a significant member of the YBAs and his close friend and manager.

This is the second donation made by Frank Dunphy through the Cultural Gifts Scheme: in 2018 six works by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake, Rachel Whiteread, Gavin Turk and Michael Craig Martin were given by Frank and his wife Lorna Dunphy to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said: “The British Museum is delighted to have acquired such a vivacious group of drawings by Damien Hirst, and we are grateful to the Cultural Gifts Scheme and to Frank Dunphy for making it possible. These drawings provide a compelling insight into one of the most fascinating and impactful art world partnerships. The British Museum already has extensive holdings documenting the centuries-old interaction between artists and the art market, and Hirst’s The Wolseley Drawings add a fascinating new chapter to that story.”

Edward Harley OBE, Chairman, AIL Panel, said: “This is the second gift that Frank Dunphy has generously donated through the Cultural Gifts Scheme and it is also the second work that the donor has given by Hirst, a leading figure in contemporary British art. The drawings are fascinating for the way in which they chronicle the artist’s success on the art market as well as Hirst’s relationship with Dunphy, his manager and friend. I am delighted that they will join the Department of Prints & Drawings at the British Museum where they can be seen and enjoyed by the public and where they will enhance the museum’s collection of graphic representations by artists of their dealers.”

Michael Ellis MP, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: “Damien Hirst is one of the most successful living artists with his work admired around the world. I am delighted that, thanks to the government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme, these works will become part of the British Museum’s collections and enjoyed by the public.”

Image: Auction Day! Franks New Watch.