A powerful and poignant sculpture by one of the world’s leading living artists, Damien Hirst, has been donated to Scotland’s national art collection by the artist’s business manager of two decades, Frank Dunphy.
Wretched War (2004) shows a poignant and moving bronze sculpture depicting a pregnant woman whose body has been fractured and decapitated.
It is partly based on anatomical models, while the pose is borrowed from Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture, Nude Study for ‘The 14-Year-Old Dancer’ (c.1880), a bronze cast of which is in the National Galleries of Scotland’s collection.
The sculpture encapsulates the theme which has been central to Damien Hirst’s art: life versus death. It has been given to the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) through the Cultural Gifts Scheme, administered by the Arts Council, by Frank Dunphy.
Hirst first came to public attention in 1988 when he conceived and curated Freeze, an exhibition staged in a London warehouse which featured his own work, and work by his friends and fellow Goldsmiths College students.
In 1991 he gained worldwide fame when, at the Saatchi Gallery in London, he exhibited a shark preserved in formaldehyde (The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) and A Thousand Years, a vitrine containing a cow’s head, maggots and flies. In these works, and ever since, Hirst has tackled the great historical themes of art: birth, life, death and the fragility of existence.
Between 1995 and 2015 Frank Dunphy was Hirst’s business manager and financial advisor.
During that time, Dunphy revolutionised the market in contemporary art. He conceived the auction sale of the artworks in Hirst’s Pharmacy restaurant at Sotheby’s in 2004 and in 2008 went further, sidestepping the traditional Gallery route and taking Hirst’s new work direct to auction.
The sale at Sotheby’s in London made over £100million and changed the art world forever. Hirst told the Wall Street Journal that ‘Every artist should have someone like Frank.’
During their professional relationship, Dunphy and his wife, Lorna, assembled a collection of Hirst’s work, including gifts from other artists and works acquired through galleries and auctions.
Frank and Lorna are long-term supporters and Patrons of NGS. Based in London and West Sussex, they have been regular visitors to Edinburgh and the NGS for more than twenty years. They have generously placed works from their collection, including Wretched War, on long-term loan to us over the years.
Simon Groom, director of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Galleries of Scotland, said: ‘We are enormously grateful to Frank for gifting this incredible sculpture to the Galleries. It originally came on loan in 2007 and has been seen in many different displays over the years. It’s one of the most popular works we have. I am thrilled that our visitors can continue to see this iconic sculpture and that it finds its permanent home here.’
Frank Dunphy said: ‘We have had a long association with the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and felt that this was an appropriate home for Wretched War. We are very grateful that the Gallery, through the Cultural Gift Scheme, have accepted this work.’
Edward Harley OBE, chairman, Acceptance in Lieu Panel said: ‘This arresting and thought-provoking sculpture has been at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for over a decade, and I am delighted that it will continue to have pride of place there. I hope that this generous gift will encourage others to use the Cultural Gifts Scheme to enrich public collections throughout the UK.’