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Damien Hirst says you can’t make art without money

The artist gets real about the creative industry’s nuanced relationship with cash, ahead of Jeff Koons’ new show at Hirst’s gallery space

The art world has a tenuous relationship with money: on one hand, big corporations can use cultural institutions like pawns if they throw a few thou their way. On the other side of the spectrum, artists at the grassroots barely have enough for supplies to make their work. Damien Hirst has spoken out about the important of capital in the creative industry.

Speaking in a BBC interview alongside American artist Jeff Koons, he likened the industry’s relationship with money to “love and death”. When asked about how money obscured creativity and production, he explained: “It’s something you need to respect. You can’t make art without somehow taking it on board”.

“I think a lot of people think that artists need to be poor, or that you can't have a focus on money," he observed. “When I did my auction and when I made all that money, it changed everything for me and it was made in such a short period of time.”

“I think money is a huge part of our lives. I've always thought it is as important as love, or death, or something to come to terms with: something to understand. It's a key and it's something you need to respect.”

Hirst asserted that money should never be thought of as a “dirty word”. “I think Andy Warhol made it okay for artists to deal with money. I think once that happen that you can't make art without somehow taking it on board,” he said.

The London-based artist is apparently the UK’s richest living artist: in 2008, he sold his entire Beautiful Inside My Head Forever show at auction and raised £111 million to break the record for the biggest ever one-artist sale. Jeff Koons, known for his steel animal balloon works and the hedonistic Luxury and Degradation series, shows works in Jeff Koons: Now at Hirst’s space the Newport Street Gallery from May 19 – October 25.