British artist Damien Hirst’s US$28k skull-painting dissected into 90 pieces and resold on art market

In the art world, movers and shakers are constantly pushing to set a new trend. During the past few years, disassembling a piece of artwork can increase its value.  

In 2020, American art collective MSCHF cut out 88 spots from a Damien Hirst print and sold them for US$480 dollars each. The remaining canvas – a piece of white paper with 88 holes, was auctioned online for slightly over US$260,000 dollars. The print’s original cost was around US$30,000 dollars.

Throughout August 2022, the Open Art Surgeons (a group with unknown identity) are doing a similar project with another oeuvre by Hirst, one of the world’s most expensive living artists. Bought for nearly US$28,000 dollars, the work was dissected into 90 smaller versions and sold online for a fraction of the original price.

Hirst's original skull painting

The British painter's oeuvre was dissected into 90 smaller skulls 

How did this start project start?

The Value talked to an Open Art Surgeon member to find out more.

In 2009, Hirst created this skull painting at a live event an exhibition opening of a wide range of the British artist's works at a venue in Ukraine. 

Collectively, this group wants to tackle the high cost of ownership of original art by the most successful contemporary artists. The anonymous representative added that allowing many different people to own their own individual artwork was a way to achieve this goal.

Another driving factor behind this project was to challenge the art world. “In the same way that the Banksy that seemingly shredded itself increased in value by a huge amount, we believe that these little skulls will later be valued at far more than their purchase price,” said the member.  

The 90 cut-out skulls are resold from around US$300 to 900 dollars

Banksy's self-destructing artwork, Girl with Balloon (later Love is in the Bin), stunned the art world | Sotheby’s London, 2018 | Sold: £18.5 million pounds 

And where did the number of skulls come from?

“The reason for there being 90 skulls is simply that that is the number we can physically cut from this size of original work. We could have made them twice the size and only had 45 available, but the price per skull would have doubled. We prefer to make them as affordable as possible,” added the representative.

Each skull will be a scaled-down version of the original. These will be approximately 50 millimetres high, and will be mounted on an artboard. Upon receiving, each skull will be randomly allocated to the buyer. They can also be optionally framed and ready to hang.  

Certificate of authenticity showing that a smaller skull came from Hirst's original painting

Each of the skulls can be optionally framed upon purchase

Available for online purchase, buyers can own from one to three skulls at once – ranging from US$326 to 927 dollars. The target is around US$8,000 dollars, which will be re-invested in other artworks which will be fractionalised and re-sold in the same way.

Currently, there is approximately US$2,500 dollars raised and will be available for bidding until 30 August.

In 2020, MSCHF cut out all 88 spots from Hirst’s print and resold each work 

Hirst's dotted artwork originally looked like this

The blank canvas with 88 holes was eventually sold for US$261,400 dollars

Since its launch in 2016, MSCHF has produced numerous viral projects. 

In 2019, the group's project was the Nike Air Max 97 Jesus Shoes, an all-white sneaker filled with Holy Water from the Jordan River, Middle East. The shoes sold out within 15 minutes of its release, despite each sneaker costing US$1,450 dollars. 

Then, in 2020, MSCHF bought Hirst’s signature spot print for US$30,484 dollars. With all 88 spots extracted, each fetched US$480 dollars and were quickly sold. Measuring 118 by 86 centimetres, the blank canvas that the spots were removed from was offered on an online auction. Alongside Hirst’s signature, the letters MSCHF can also be seen on the canvas, signed by the creative team. 

Jesus Shoes is filled with Holy Water in their sole area  

Hirst constantly produces thought-provoking artworks, such as this cow and calf sculpture (left)

Hirst’s works have often aroused much controversy – continuously challenging contemporary belief systems. Not only has he used materials such as sharks, dead sheep, and human skulls in his works, but he has also created fake sunken treasures and claimed that they were in the ocean for 2,000 years.

Like the British artist, the Open Art Surgeons want to keep challenging the norm.

“We are keen to see if we can marge the worlds of crowdfunding and art collecting with this project. It is not something that has been done before.”

Moving forward, the representative added that the plan is to launch a new “fractionalised art ownership” project in this way two or three times per year. For the next project, another original Hirst is already in the planning stages.