Sotheby’s, London, have sold the collection of Damien Hirst’s business manager, mentor and ‘partner in crime’, Frank Dunphy for a total of £10,088,125 million, surpassing its pre-sale estimate (£5.2-7.3 million), with a sell-through rate of 92% and participants from 43 countries. Comprising over 200 works in total, the live auction saw 108 lots come under the hammer; a further 98 lots feature in a dedicated online auction. This is a textbook example of being an enthusiastic collector with the right contacts at the right time…Yes timing is everything.
“It’s been an exciting but very emotional time particularly when viewing the whole collection hung in one place – Frank and Lorna Dunphy
Oliver Barker, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, who worked with the Dunphys on both the landmark ‘Pharmacy’ and ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’ sales in 2004 and 2008 respectively, said: “It was an absolute joy to see Frank and Lorna’s world so enthusiastically received today. Their energy and warmth, and the fantastic story of their lives at the heart of the iconoclastic 1990s art scene clearly speaks to a big community of fans, among whom I of course count myself. Having been lucky enough to enjoy their company and an amazing collaborative friendship over these last 15 years or so, it was a real thrill to see that special Dunphy magic at work today, just as it was before in these same rooms.”
Frank and Lorna’s joint company, Yellow Ball, takes its name from the first night they met, when Frank potted the yellow ball during a game of snooker. One of the highlights of the sale was Damien Hirst’s Smashing Yellow Ball at Peace Painting, a fitting present from the artist to the Dunphys on the occasion of their retirement. No fewer than eight bidders drove the final sale price to £298,000 (est. £100,000-150,000).
The sale opened with a flurry of bids for Damien Hirst’s 1997 spot painting, N-Chloroacetyl-L-Phenylalanine (PFS) Crystalline, which sold to an Asian private collector for £358,000, triple its pre-sale estimate (£100,000-150,000). Boys ‘n’ Girls ‘n’ the Sun (2006), a butterfly work in three parts, achieved £574,000), while Epiphany (2005), a large circular work with butterflies, reached £490,000 (est. £280,000-350,000).
The top lot of the sale was Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1961), an emblematic tagli (cut) piece by the Italian artist, which was competed for by six bidders to sell for £1,174,000 (est. £600,000-800,000). A further highlight was Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign (1982), which realised £730,000 (est. £200,000-300,000), following activity from seven bidders. Measuring just over 25 by 20cm, this work was originally gifted by Warhol to his great friend David Whitney, the collector, critic and gallerist. Two works by Takashi Murakami sold over estimate. His Rainbow Flower – 7 O’Clock sold for £137,000 (est. £40,000-60,000) and Flower of Joy – Yellow made £106,250 (est. £40,000-60,000).
The Dunphys became a fixture among the YBAs, advising a wide range of artists including Tracey Emin and Angus Fairhurst. After seeing competition from three bidders, Emin’s My Heart is With You And I Love You Always Always Always, a neon work created in 2006, sold for £131,250 (est. £40,000-60,000). A Gorilla sculpture by Angus Fairhurst, A couple of differences between thinking and feeling (2000) set a new auction record by the artist, selling at £27,500 (est. £8,000-12,000).
Yellow Ball was replete with works that testify to the enduring partnership of Frank Dunphy and Damien Hirst, and all but one of the lots by Hirst found a buyer:
A pill cabinet, PSST (1997), given to Frank when he was ill, sold to an Asian private collector for £131,250 (est. £60,000-80,000)
Bust of Frank (2008), a 70th birthday present made for Frank’s party at Home House in London, made £47,500 (est. £25,000-35,000)
The spin painting Beautiful, all round, lovely day… (1998), made with Frank and Lorna’s help in the artist’s Lambeth studio, sold for £310,000 (est. £150,000-200,000).
A spot painting from 2008, Lauryl Acetate, included in the 2012 Tate retrospective, fetched £370,000 (est. £100,000-150,000).
Top Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s
Frank Dunphy The Incredible Life of Damien Hirst’s Manager, Mentor and ‘Partner in Crime’ Watch Video