It seems fitting that Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons have co-curated a show of Koons’ work at the Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. Both these art world megastars have—at various points in their careers—scandalized the art world establishment, but they are also connected through their keen interest in the money-making aspect of being an artist.
Speaking to the BBC in an interview alongside Jeff Koons, Hirst was questioned about the influence of money on art creation: “I think a lot of people think that artists need to be poor, or that you can't have a focus on money. When I did my auction, when I made all that money, it changed everything for me and it was made in such a short period of time." Damien Hirst consigned 223 of his own works to a Sotheby’s auction in 2008. It is estimated that the two-day auction made $200.7, an unprecedented sum for a single-artist auction. In the interview Hirst would go to say, “I definitely don't think it (money) should be considered a dirty word. And I think Andy Warhol made it okay for artists to deal with money. I think once that happened you can't make art without somehow taking it on board."
Once you’ve managed to see past the perfect superficial polish of his art, part of Koons’ appeal is the astonishing insights his works give about the status of contemporary art in today’s society. Koons’ work sells for incredible sums at auction. His Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994-2000 sold in 2013 for an extraordinary $58.4 million at Christie's—the highest for a living artist. However, the cost of manufacturing his sculptures is so high that he has driven “at least three of his dealers into bankruptcy” according to the journalist Felix Salmon. What Koons has done so well is to perfect the art of selling his artworks to collectors even though the artworks don’t actually yet exist. Both he and Hirst have managed to turn the art market on its head.