Damien Hirst and Charles Saatchi: Market-makers

Thursday June 16th 2011
The establishment’s darling Damien Hirst

The king of contemporary art in Britain is Damien Hirst, who morphed from enfant terrible to the richest artist who has ever lived in a matter of a decade or so.

Despite his repeated efforts to shock the bourgeoisie, Hirst has been clasped emphatically to the establishment bosom. The blockbuster Tate show during the 2012 Olympics is going to be a Hirst retrospective.

And that love affair began almost right away.

Hirst was incredibly pro-active and businesslike from the off, organising a group show that launched his own career and that of several of his friends in the summer of 1988.  The bourgeoisie found that he shocked them in all the right places. His timing was impeccable. It was as if there had been a Hirst-shaped hole in the art-firmament just waiting for him to slot in.

Ad man and art entrepreneur Charles Saatchi “discovered” Hirst then and invested time and money in promoting him and the other Young British Artists (YBAs – how advertising to come up with a label).

The two men spent the following decade transforming the British art market and then the world art market into the big-bucks industry that we see today.

How is it that Hirst owns polkadots?

As a man steeped in marketing (he ran the biggest advertising agency in the world), Saatchi must have been thrilled when he found Hirst. Here was a young unknown – shocking, potty-mouthed, slumming with slebs and with a readymade avant-garde coterie – a perfect caricature of bohemian – how marketable was that? What’s more Hirst was (and is) almost insanely productive – work just gushed out of his studio.

Hirst quickly understood the key lesson of marketing: establish your brand.

Saatchi and Hirst finally fell out in 2003, but not before both were quids in. Today Hirst operates exactly like a top fashion designer, creating statement pieces, but making serious money by selling affordable bits and bobs to people who want to be part of the Hirst story. He is a brilliant entrepreneur.

Art Jester

What a whizz-bang chart.

Hirst embodies the Gemini artist just perfectly. Look at the stellium he has in the twins. He is a trickster, a prankster, a talker, a salesman. He doesn’t do much of the hands-on work (and never has) because he believes that providing the ideas is where the real art lies. So very air sign… “I’ll talk while you get your hands dirty,”

The stellium in Gemini certainly speaks of fame, what with the Sun itself, the centre of his identity conjuncting the North Node. This also suggests something about Hirst’s sense of timing. He lives in the moment, seizing life by the scruff of it’s neck.

Jupiter is in its fall in Gemini and a degree from the royal star Aldebaran, which also denotes fame but  also excess.

His other stellium is also in a Mercury-ruled sign, Virgo. The generational signature of those born in the mid-1960s is that Uranus-Pluto conjunction and Hirst has the mid-60s add-on of the Saturn opposition. The whole is highly integrated with his chart, creating a dynamic T-square. No wonder he is so emblematic of that generation (at least an aspect of it).

His Mars is in Virgo, so despite all the merry prankster stuff, Hirst works hard, and I bet he takes the craft aspects a lot more seriously than you might guess. As he says himself, even if it doesn’t look like he’s doing art all the time, he’s thinking it, which is his work.

Most of Hirst’s work seems to be about death in one way or another, so I expect he either has Scorpio rising or at the MC which would make artistic Neptune angular. (If you happen to know when he was born, do tell me.)

Give Me Immortality
Look at all those lucky sextiles and trines.

But what I find really fascinating (hilarious) is that the other figure who dominates the art market, Charles Saatchi, has a chart that is so close to Hirst’s.

Again, there’s a stellium in Gemini and a second stellium; this time in Leo, interesting for someone who “shuns” the limelight, except of course that he likes to name really big buildings, big companies, TV shows and prizes after himself. That’ll be the Leo then.

Saatchi’s Gemini Sun makes an exact sextile to his North Node in Leo. All this effort is about posterity. In this he is quite different from Hirst, who is interested in the now. Saatchi thinks very long term, very strategically.

He wants our children’s children to talk about the Saatchi in the same way that we talk about the Tate now. (I wonder how he feels about the afterlife,) The tightest pattern in this chart is the mini-grand trine between that selling Gemini Mercury, artistic Neptune and Jupiter in Cancer. He must be like a big mother to his employees. I imagine he is a very controlling man; he must remind his wife, TV cook Nigella Lawson, of her dad.

You’ll notice that I haven’t discussed the art in this post, that’s because Hirst and Saatchi are really more about commerce. Together they dominate the art world commercially, but perhaps no longer critically. Posterity will be the judge. I think Mercury would be quite satisfied with that; he is after all a patron of markets and merchants.

To view more work by Hirst, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. NR says:

    Thank you, Christina, for your work. I enjoy it tremendously. And I learn so much!

  2. Isy Aweigh says:

    I’d bet dollars to donuts that Hirst’s Gemini stellium is 2nd house (talents and wealth; Jupiter in Gemini 2nd can bring enormous gifts of communication, as youve said) and Virgo stellium is 5th (creativity, childishness, sex appeal), possibly Moon in 6th (which is why he keeps an eye on execution of the drudgery – it matters to him). That might put Scorpio on his Desc. Death as mentor/mate?

    • Christina says:

      very good – “death as mentorimate”.

      One other clue from his recent interview on Desert Island Discs: he quit drinking six years ago. I’d guess Neptune on an angle with that kind of alcohol dependence.

  3. Marilyn Haynes-Smith says:

    Both these men have touched my life before the astrology.

    Charles Saatchi was the icon in my class @ a Jewish Advertising College in London…he was 5 years ahead of me & made his name with an Ad for a soap powder Fab Or Tide with the use of color in a drab UK….ART @ its best & most simple…his brother Maurice was the Accountant…the rest was history…he was always shy & fearful..he never did his final exams…sure he would fail…Maurice, big brother was his fiscal Rock.

    His Gallery in Sloane Square has FREE entrance and kicks the English establishment UP THEIR A%#S…( Jews in the UK are like Blacks in the USA….shh Kate Middleton’s Mom is Jewish) He is totally DEDICATED to the principal that the Underdog CAN become the Champion.
    I am saddened by this incident but MEN become JEALOUS of Women and will not own up to it. Nigella is ALL CLASS and has oodles of confidence plus MEN ADORE HER!!!!

    I will NEVER lose respect for Charles despite this moment of weakness because he has contributed sooooo much to the equality of race and creed and showed the World that we are or can be equal given our individual efforts to perform.

    He like so many other men need THERAPY to come to terms with the changing roles of Women in today’s World.

    Damien too is one I encountered by working in the “slummy” Depford Bridge area of London as a Real Estate Agent. Strangely his ART was as shocking as Saatchi’s ADS …& the rest as they say is history…but Damien has transformed the area to Yuppie prominence & upward property values. He still Lives & works there as opposed to Charles who moved & married “UP”.

    Maybe Charles’ Jewish roots & memories of rejection have come back to haunt him despite his $$$$$. THERAPY THERAPY THERAPY.
    U can take a man out of the gutter but u cant take the gutter out of him….

    My prayers7 forgiveness go out to him & every undermined human being in this world… I completely UNDERSTAND.

    Marilyn Haynes

  4. sabrina says:

    Oh that virgo Mars! Earthy mars can be so productive. I’m impressed on how, visually, both charts are so clean cut.