Aw, Shucks: Damien Hirstâ??s 20-Year-Old Diary Wonâ??t Be Displayed After All

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Published October 19, 2010

Anyone who purports to be an artist should know better than to play finders-keepers with Damien Hirst, who is neither a loser nor a weeper. But that’s what Dean Whatmuff (what a name!) did when he found an old diary and sketchbook of Hirst’s: he planned to display both at the Plus Art Fair (which runs beside Frieze), but was thwarted when Hirst found out about the plan and threatened to sic the police on him.

According to the very absorbing account of the episode in The Independent, Whatmuff used to house-sit for Hirst in the early ’90s, and at some point their stuff got mixed up. Whatmuff didn’t realize it until years later when he moved, but once he did, (we imagine) his eyes lit up with dollar signs like an old Daffy Duck cartoon. “I was unpacking some boxes from nearly 20 years ago and I found that Damien had left some belongings including a diary and a sketchbook. I thought I might as well show it at the Plus Art Show,” The Independent quotes Whatmuff saying, all nonchalantly. PHOTO, LEFT, BY BRIENNE WALSH.

And it’s a show we’d have loved to see: the diary ends in 1993, a year after the first Young British Artists exhibition, the same year Mother and Child Divided showed in the Venice Biennale—in other words, at a rather auspicious time in Hirst’s life. It reportedly contains lots of gushy business about Maia Norman, the Californian fashion designer who would become his long-term partner. (They’d just met.)

“But when Damien found out about the exhibit he was pissed off about it,” Whatmuff continued. No kidding! Hirst sent an associate to collect the items, after threatening to call the police if there was trouble, and they were safely returned. Let this be a warning: nobody makes money off Damien Hirst but Damien Hirst. (In related news, a giant Hirst butterfly painting was the big winner at Frieze this year, bringing in about $3.5 million.)

[Independent, Telegraph]