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Damien Hirst Blocks Sale of Bombay Mix

July 24, 2014
Sanja Lazic was born in 1990 in Belgrade, Serbia. Her interest in art comes from a very early age and although she didn’t have the talent to pursue it professionally, she enjoys every day working and writing about it. Her favorite urban artists are Interesni Kazki, Saner and Phlegm.

For a while now, there is an ongoing dispute about the ownership of Damien Hirst’s early painting called ‘Bombay Mix’. The artist is demanding his work to be returned, while the owner is trying to sell it. It all started in 1988 when a young Hirst has painted an artpiece on the wallpaper of a private home in Fulham London, then owned and lived in by Jamie Ritblat. The painting was a birthday gift from his parents, Sir John and Lady Ritblat, both well-known patrons of the arts. When the family decided to sell the house, the painting remained in situ, and in 2005 Jess and Roger Simpson bought it for £471,000. Now the couple wants to sell it.

Hirst's Love's Paradox
Hirst’s Love’s Paradox

Owner Vs. Author

The Simpsons, who said that the painting wasn’t really to their taste, employed specialists in 2007 to take Bombay Mix off the wall, and have it mounted on an aluminium backing board. Afterwards, when decided to actually sell it, they encountered with major problems. It seems that the painting is worthless unless it’s sold with an accompanying certificate of authentication that is in the property of Hirst’s company, Science Ltd. Therefore, as the employees of Science Ltd. say, Simpsons’ cannot be owners of the piece. Hirst himself gave a statement saying that he expects the artwork to be returned to Science Ltd. in order for it to be destroyed. Mrs Simpson, however, is not surprised by the latest events, but seems a little bit disappointed: ‘‘It’s quite extraordinary how aggressive Science are being about it. We don’t really know much about the contemporary art world, but it seems a ludicrous way of doing business, really’’.

The Bombay Mix Certificate of Authenticity
The Bombay Mix Certificate of Authenticity

Currently In A Gallery

At the moment, the painting is being placed at Antiques, a gallery in Pimlico in London, but cannot be sold as the dispute continues. As if it wasn’t bizarre enough, Andrew Lamberty, the gallery owner said: ‘‘I am essentially not allowed to say that I have a picture by the artist that is actually by the artist’’. In a letter later sent to artnet News, Lamberty decided to comment on the current situation saying that he supports Mrs Simpsons wish to sell the work and that ‘she and I  can not believe that it is in the interests of the history of art to destroy an important early work by an important British artist’.

Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst

Worthless Without the Certificate

On the other hand, Mr Ritblat, the original owner of the piece, showed up and gave an expected support to the artist saying that the piece is now ‘a valueless bunch of multi- coloured spots’. Science Ltd. closed the discussion, for now, by saying that ‘the ownership of a wall painting in the series titled Wall Spots always resides with the owner of the Wall Spots signed certificate, which accompanies the art work’, and that this is ‘common practice’ in the art world for site-specific artworks. By that standard, they argue, the company is ‘the legal owner of the wall spot titled Bombay Mix’.

Hirst's work
Hirst’s work