Damien Hirst—the insanely wealthy British artist-provocateur famous for encasing a dead shark in formaldehyde—has severed ties with the well-heeled Gagosian Gallery, which represented him for the last 17 years. Hirst's abrupt and unexpected departure leaves him without gallery representation in New York City.
Rising to fame (or notoriety, depending on who you ask) during the '90s as the enfant terrible of a group dubbed the Young British Artists, Hirst went on to amass a net worth of over £215 million according to the Sunday Times, securing his spot as the world's richest artist. Larry Gagosian, the dealer behind galleries that brought in $925 in revenue last year, was instrumental in helping Hirst fetch such huge sums for his work. Hirst's departure has surprised the art world—The New York Times' Carl Vogel writes that he's "left his fans and collectors wondering" what he'll do next.
Hirst has worked sporadically with other galleries like White Cube and auction houses like Sotheby's in the past. But still, this break-up is huge. In 2011, Gagosian dedicated every one of its 11 gallery spaces to Hirst's "Spot Paintings" series, clearly signaling how important he was in their stable of artists. Some are speculating that this might signal a shift for the Gagosian Gallery. Jeff Koons, another one of their blue chip standbys, announced plans to show at a different New York gallery last week.