It has taken the artist Damien Hirst 10 years to prepare his new exhibition, which opens in Venice in April, but one of his most recent works is not included — it is hanging in a nearby restaurant.
Hirst visited Giovanni Fracassi’s Da Ivo celebrit y restaurant last week and left him a sketch the restaurateur values at £250,000.
Fracassi said that Hirst, enjoying a plate of duck pasta, asked for a pen and paper and drew him with a shark swimming across his face.
Five years ago an autograph book containing a shark sketch by Hirst was bought at a London auction for £4,664.
Fracassi, whose restaurant was the venue for George Clooney’s stag night, insisted he had been offered much more. He said: “Venice is a small town, so people hear things in minutes.
“My top offer wa s £250,000 from a Japanese collector who even offered to double it if he took both sketches Damien has done for me. I have one from four years ago when he ate here and drew me as a skull.
rew me as a skull. “You can’t sell a gift — it’s not correct and anyway I don’t need the money at the moment and believe the value will increase.”
Hirst’s Venice exhibition will show works entitle d Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable at the linked art centre s Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana.
According to the New York Times, it “includes some 250 pieces in various sizes ranging in price from about $400,000 (£328,000) for small jade objects to $4m for a malachite head of Medusa”.
Publicity for it shows divers working on the seabed, one of them apparently confronting a sea monster.
The exhibition is vital to Hirst’s reputation, which has declined over the years. When he began showing figurative paintings, one critic said that “their lack of technical talent was staggering”.