Contemporary art News United Kingdom

What will become of the Olympic works of art?

Trade figures ask whether large-scale works by Damien Hirst and Marc Quinn will ever find a home

Quinn created an inflatable version of his sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant, which he says “will not be sold”

The fate of two enormous works created by Damien Hirst and Marc Quinn for the recent London Olympics and Paralympics Games is uncertain, with key trade figures questioning whether the large-scale pieces will ever find a home.

The Olympic Games ended on 12 August with a spectacular closing ceremony that featured pop stars, supermodels and a floor designed by Hirst that covered the entire length of the stadium. The floor formed a giant Union Jack in patriotic, spin-painted colours, with the flag's bars and diagonals decorated in newsprint. According to White Cube, Hirst’s London gallery, the installation was returned to the artist.

Quinn, meanwhile, recreated for the Paralympics opening ceremony on 29 August his provocative Alison Lapper Pregnant work which occupied the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in London in 2005. The original marble work, which depicted the eponymous disabled artist, measured 12ft but the new version was 43ft high. “This [later] work was an inflatable made with a new technique,” Quinn says, adding that it “will not be sold”.

When asked if the two works would appeal to private collectors, the New York-based art dealer Ed Winkleman said: “I would think there's not much of a market for work that large outside its original installation. Where could you ever present it again? Then again, it is Damien Hirst, so if anyone can figure out how to place it, he and his dealers would be the ones. Perhaps break it up? In the end, [the Hirst installation] was a very site-specific work, and I would think its appeal outside that context is not something easy to convince a collector of.” Winkleman is co-founder of the Moving Image contemporary video art fair which opens at the Bargehouse on London's Southbank next month (11-14 October).

Other commentators note a shift towards vast art with the London-based collector Jason Lee pointing out how galleries and auction houses have turned to large outdoor works in recent years, citing the annual “Beyond Limits” statuary exhibition organised by Sotheby’s at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (until 28 October).

“The works showcased by Damien Hirst and Marc Quinn [at the Olympics and Paralympics] take this outdoor art to a different level,” Lee says. “They raise awareness of the artists, giving them international exposure, rather than appealing [directly] to collectors.” He strikes a note of caution, however, saying: “The monumental scale makes it harder to place [the works] with private collectors.” Lee is co-founder of the Artnesia company which presents the exhibition "Time, after Time: Parallels Between Young American Artists and Italian Masters" at the Ronchini gallery in London (until 2 October).

Alma Luxembourg of Luxembourg & Dayan gallery in London nonetheless believes that the oversized works could tap into current market trends. “There are sculpture gardens and private foundations that may accommodate the pieces. Art history has shown that space often dictates the form of art. Today’s fashion for large-scale architecture, both private and public, coupled with the growing number of collectors for contemporary art means that works on this scale can find favour,” she says.

Meanwhile, a UK contemporary art curator, who preferred to remain anonymous, says that the two works were “theatrical set pieces used purely for window dressing”.

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25 Sep 12
22:26 CET


Perhaps they should be gifted to Disneyland

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