Hirst’s doodles knock £90,000 off tax bill
Artist’s manager donates his food-stained placemat doodles to cut tax bill by £90k under state scheme
Damien Hirst’s manager has knocked £90,000 from his tax bill after donating 73 coffee-stained placemats to the nation. The mats feature Hirst’s doodled portraits of Frank Dunphy, his friend and long-time manager, drawn over breakfast meetings at the Wolseley restaurant in Piccadilly. Now Mr Dunphy has given them to the nation under the Government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme, which allows donors to receive a tax reduction in exchange for their donations.
WHEN submitting a tax return, the paperwork usually involves invoices and receipts. For Damien Hirst’s manager, it also includes 73 coffee-stained placemats.
The mats feature Hirst’s doodled portraits of Frank Dunphy, his friend and long-time manager, drawn over breakfast meetings at the Wolseley restaurant in Piccadilly.
By donating them to the nation under the Government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme, Mr Dunphy has knocked £90,000 from his tax bills.
They are among dozens of “cultural treasures” named today in a report by Arts Council England, totalling nearly £60million in 2018-19.
Hirst drew the sketches over 8.30am breakfasts, and some of them bear the coffee and food stains to prove it.
Some are comic – one is captioned “Frank ‘eggs-ellent’ Dunphy” and depicts the manager as a boiled egg – and others refer to major milestones in Hirst’s career. A picture entitled Skull Duggery [sic] Day relates to the sale of the artist’s diamond and platinum-encrusted skull.
The Arts Council explained: “All were executed ad vivum [from life] except two: the 14th portrait, Frank (From Memory), and the 24th, In His Absence, which was done after Dunphy left to eat at another table after Hirst objected to his breakfast of kippers.”
Hirst knew that the sketches represented a canny investment, and the report notes that he worked “with a placemat on his knee in order to hide his drawings from passers-by”.
Salvador Dali is also said to have identified restaurant visits as a moneysaver: according to legend, he would take large parties out for dinner, write a cheque for the entire meal and then sketch something on the back of it, knowing that the restaurant owner would never cash it and part with a valuable work of art.
The Wolseley Drawings, as they are known, have been allocated to the British Museum. The Cultural Gifts Scheme, set up to encourage philanthropy in the arts, allows donors to receive a tax reduction in exchange for their donations.
It runs alongside the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which allows owners of artworks and heritage to transfer them to public ownership to meet inheritance tax bills. Together, the schemes accounted for treasures worth £58.6million last year.
Muesli for breakfast at the Wolseley restaurant in Piccadilly, London, costs £4.75 and a yogurt £7.25. It is the sort of place at which successful Young British Artists could afford to eat. Damien Hirst had breakfast there at least 73 times with his brilliant business manager, Frank Dunphy. On each occasion, Hirst drew something on the back of a paper place-mat. “Frank eggs-ellent Dunphy,” he captioned a drawing of the man as a boiled egg on January 12 2010, not omitting to sign it. These fine artworks have now been accepted by the British Museum under the Cultural Gifts Scheme, in lieu of £90,000 tax from the artist. Historians will be interested. Who can complain? It’s like drawing a picture on the back of a cheque that you sign; only a truly famous artist can benefit from such a trick.
Damien Hirst, centre, with four of the placemat doodles of his manager
Frank Dunphy, friend and manager of Damien Hirst, used the artist’s doodles of him to save money on his tax return