Sotheby's Dunphy Collection Sale


Frank Dunphy and Damien Hirst’s friendship began with a game of snooker at the Groucho club in London. With art deals including the sale of Hirst’s Hymn in 1999 – the artist’s first work to sell for over £1M – and two unprecedented studio-to-auction art sales at Sotheby’s attributed to Hirst’s ex-business manager, it’s no surprise that the brains behind his savviest moves is curator to his own impressive art collection.  


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“Damien and I bonded over a game of snooker. He’d just won the Turner Prize, and I feel I became a bit of a paternal figure to him and he eventually asked me to be his manager,” Dunphy told the Independent newspaper in 2015. Hirst, meanwhile, once said: “I was a punk until I met him.”


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The financial aficionado’s latest move will see 200 works by more than 60 artists from within this collection go under the hammer at Sotheby’s on 20 September, with a selection already on display in London. At the heart of the collection are a number of works by Damien Hirst - most of which were made specifically for Dunphy’s, and gifted to them in affection, jest, or appreciation.


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Highlight’s of the Hirst works include a Spin Painting made on the same day as David Bowie’s, a pill cabinet he recieved from Hirst when he was unwell, an important early Spot Painting, and a less conventional Hirst’s sketch titled ‘Win, draw or lose, we’re here to booze’ which was penned on the back of a restaurant menu, and estimates range from £100,000 for the circular butterfly painting, Yellow Ball, to just £50 for a decorated cigarette lighter. Together these pieces chart the colourful story of the pair’s journey to art world domination.

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“The art scene has been our life for the past 30 years,” the Dunphys said in a joint statement. “Living with the art has been like living with our friends. Much of it is steeped in happy memories, and so much of it we bought ourselves simply because we loved it. But time waits for no man, and the time has come to say goodbye to some of the art, though not the memories nor the friendships.” 

Andy Warhol Dollar Sign 

Punctuating the sale works by other YBAs including Tracey Emin transcend spirit of the time the pair spent working together, while the magnificent White Tagli by Lucio Fontana and a vibrant Dollar Sign by Andy Warhol reflect the Dunphy’s immersion in the wider world of art.


Images courtesy of Sotheby's