Frank Dunphy, the man behind Damien Hirst’s financial success which resulted in his domination of the artworld for over two decades has died age 82. He pioneered the practice of artist’s manager applying a similar formula once only the domain of rock managers.
Artist Peter Blake said, Here was this affable Irishman telling jokes, and suddenly all hell broke loose
Frank Dunphy began his career as a manager of musicians and circus entertainers before becoming a certified accountant and moving into fine artist representation. At the height of his career, he handled a roster of top-selling artists including Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread, and Jake and Dinos Chapman. “He was a really good energy around the middle years of the Young British Artists: people were starting to make money and he gave good advice,” Rachel Whiteread told Sotheby’s in 2018
Dunphy was active during Hirst’s most prolific period of output and helped mastermind ambitious projects including the record-breaking $127 million 2008 Sotheby’s auction, “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” and the infamous diamond-studded skull.
Dunphy remained on the board of directors of Hirst’s Company following a split in 2010. He worked as a consultant until retiring at the end of the year but was succeeded by James Kelly, who joined Hirst Holdings after more than 20 years as a senior partner at international accountancy and tax advisory firm, Rawlinson & Hunter.
Dunphy was able to renegotiate commission rates with dealers securing up to 90 per cent for his more successful clients. He also advised his artist’s to sell directly to collectors via auction or private sales.
In 2008 at the beginning of a worldwide recession, Dunphy advised Hirst to sell 223 artworks at Sotheby’s, bypassing the artists’ galleries, White Cube and Gagosian. The sale realised $148 million a record result for a single-artist sale.
Sotheby’s sold the Frank Dunphy collection 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 was a textbook example of being an enthusiastic collector with the right contacts at the right time…Yes timing is everything.