Cartrain 'Ransom' Edition of 20 Size: 13 x 19 Inches

The Price of Being Damien Hirst

Reader Mail Correction:

Dear Ms. Goebel,
I recently read your article, “The Price of Being Damien Hirst” from which mentioned me by name and included a photograph I took this summer.  I very much enjoyed the article, but I thought it might be worth noting that I am indeed a woman rather than a “he”.

You wrote that, “the first image on his website appears directly appropriated from an image of “For the Love of God.”  The image you wrote about is a detail from this work, title “Pros and Cons” []  This has me somewhat perplexed (in a good way).  The comment makes me wonder whether a photograph of cheap knock-off of the original is a more or less direct appropriation than a glitter-festooned drawing of a 3-dimensional object.  I have been going back and forth on this for some time.
I will say that my use of the image, in either case, has little to do with Hirst as a person or celebrity figure.  Similarly, I do not even think it matters whether I like or dislike Hirsts work.   I have used representations (I dont really think my work is close enough to count as an appropriation) of “For the Love of God” in my work because I believe the piece represents a moment in Art History and for its referential versatility.

And finally, for the record, I cannot even imagine what Damien Hirst is thinking regarding the Cartrain debaucle.  Appropriation is a tradition at this point, and for such a PR-oriented artist, Hirsts reaction is pretty surprising.

Thanks for the name-check, and I look forward to reading more of your articles!


The relationship between a young British graffiti artist who goes by the name Cartrain, and uber-artist Damien Hirst, has soured still more. Cartrain last year appropriated images of Hirsts diamond encrusted skull, “For the Love of God” for use in his collage art. After Cartrain then sold those images on the website, he had his first run-in with Hirst. Hirst reported Cartrain to the Design and Artists Copyright Society and a string of legal letters were sent to Cartrains art dealer, Tom Cuthbert, at The online gallery surrendered the young artists works to Hirst with a verbal apology. (Cartrains age has been variously reported; he is somewhere between 16 and 23 years old.) Hirst then demanded £200 for use and copyright fees, which Cartrain refused to pay because Hirst and DAC were in possession of the artworks.

Interestingly, images available for purchase today at include the skull imagery.  Also interesting is that Hirst, who appropriated the idea for the diamond-crusted skull sculpture from a former artist and friend has made such a big deal about this. (Hes also been accused of stealing the idea for his butterfly works from artist Lori Precious.) As the Art Newspaper reported last year, Hirst and his London dealer, Jay Jopling of White Cube, are partner-investors in the “For the Love of God” sculpture, which had a price estimate of $50m and was excluded from a group of objects Hirst sold at auction at Sothebys London last September.

Cartrain admits that hes never been a fan of Hirsts art, which famously includes sculptures of sharks, calves and bulls in formaldehyde with titles like “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” and “Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain.”  Hirst is also known for his dot paintings, spin paintings, butterfly mandala objects, and large installations of pharmaceuticals, as well as for his dabbling in the nightclub business in London.

When Hirsts “Pharmacy,” went on display at Tate Britain, the room-sized installation representing a real pharmacy was outfitted with cabinets containing bottles and packages of prescription drugs. On one counter were four apothecary bottles filled with colored liquids in blue, yellow, red, green, representing the elements water, air, fire, earth. Somewhere on the shelves were boxes of Faber Castell pencils.

One of those boxes of Faber Castell 1990 Mongol 482 series pencils, went missing from Tate Britain in July. Cartrain admitted to pilfering the pencils as ransom for his yet to be returned artworks. He fabricated a mock “wanted” poster that read:

Cartrains portrayal of Damien Hirst. Photograph: Cartrain

Cartrain's portrayal of Damien Hirst. Photograph: Cartrain

“For the safe return of Damien Hirsts pencilers I would like my artworks back that DACS and Hirst took off me in November. Its not a large demand… Hirst has until the end of this month to resolve this or on 31 of July the pencils will be sharpened. He has been warned.”

The prank backfired and the Art & Antiques Squad of Scotland Yard arrested Cartrain and his father.

He was told by custody officers that the pencils were valued at £500,000 and that he had damaged “the concept of a public artwork titled Pharmacy … valued at £10,000,000” according to the Independent. Cartrain posted bail. His hearing is today. If convicted he will be guilty of the highest value modern art theft in Britain.

How is Cartrains use of the image of “For the Love God” that much different from the University of Missouri MFA student, J. Sloane Snure Paullus (sloanestudio dot com) who also appropriates Hirst in his her work? Sloane has said she found his crystal skull at a Michaels in Amarillo, Texas, though the first image on her website appears directly appropriated from an image of “For the Love of God.”

Cartrain has said in an interview that the image in For the Love of God is not entirely Hirsts. “Its not really his. There should be freedom in art. I think Hirst is only in it for the money.”

Scotland Yard says the theft was a stunt for publicity. But any more so than Hirsts diamond encrusted skull was a stunt for publicity and to inflate the value of his art before his “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” direct-to-auction sale at Sothebys?

Perhaps the real issue is that Hirst, the most famous, well-known and richest living conceptual artist is being out-concepted by a teenager?

Cartrain Ransom Edition of 20 Size: 13 x 19 Inches
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  1. Dear Leanne,
    I was wondering if Damian Hirst ever gave the confiscated 2009 artworks back to Cartrain? I don’t see anything from that series for sale anywhere. Do you have any information on the status of those artworks to date. I read that Hirst had contracted an intellectual property attorney about the situation and I am wondering if he put a stop on the production and sale of those works.

    Any insight?

    Best ~ Sheila Sporer