Damien Hirst Splits Gagosian Gallery.

Artist’s Exit Sets Back Gagosian Gallery

Just a week ago Damien Hirst, the famously provocative British artist, was at Art Basel Miami Beach, hanging out at the party at SoHo House for which Larry Gagosian, the superdealer, was a co-host. According to people who were there, nothing seemed amiss. But a few days later, on Thursday, Mr. Hirst stunned the art world by announcing that he was leaving the Gagosian Gallery, where he has been represented for 17 years.

It wasn’t the only piece of bad news Mr. Gagosian has received in recent days. It came a week after David Zwirner, the Chelsea dealer, said he was organizing a show of new work by Jeff Koons, a longtime Gagosian artist, and a day before The Art Newspaper reported that Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese artist, was “in the process” of leaving Gagosian. (On Friday night, a spokeswoman for the gallery said that it was “reviewing the parameters of our working relationship with Ms. Kusama.”)

Of the three artists, Mr. Hirst may have dealt the gallery the biggest blow. Mr. Koons, an artist of similarly huge stature, is still officially represented by Gagosian; Ms. Kusama, while more prominent than ever after a recent retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, does not have name recognition comparable to Mr. Hirst’s.

No one involved will discuss what precipitated Mr. Hirst’s sudden departure. Mr. Hirst is now in Thailand, where he did not respond to telephone calls, e-mails or text messages. Mr. Gagosian is not commenting, either. Millicent Wilner, a director of the Gagosian Gallery in London, who has worked with Mr. Hirst for more than eight years, seemed dispirited on Friday.

“We were all in Miami together,” she said. “As a gallery, we’ve done everything to support him. But Damien has always done things differently.”

For the complete article by Carol Vogel please visit the NY Times Online.