Damien Hirst in vicious feud with teenage artist over a box of pencils

Millionaire gets young rival banned from galleries after taking exception to prank played on him

How much is a box of pencils worth? Fifty pence? £3.99 if the pencils have rubbers on the ends? Well, if they're part of a Damien Hirst art installation, the value is £500,000. That is what 17-year-old graffiti artist Cartrain discovered when he pilfered some pencils from Hirst's sculpture Pharmacy. And that wasn't all – he was arrested, released on bail, and is waiting to find out if he will be formally charged with causing damage to an iconic artwork worth £10m.

When Cartrain walked into Tate Britain and made off with a few HBs in July, he believed it was a harmless game of tit-for-tat as part of an ongoing feud. He originally locked horns with the millionaire artist last year, when he used an image of Hirst's famous diamond-encrusted skull, For the Love of God, to create collages that were put up for sale on an art website.

Hirst reported him to the Design and Artists Copyright Society and a string of legal letters were sent to Cartrain's art dealer, Tom Cuthbert, at 100artworks.com, about the teenager's pieces, also called For the Love of God. The online gallery surrendered them to Hirst with a verbal apology.

Taking revenge, Cartrain took the box of pencils that were part of Hirst's sculpture, Pharmacy, which was being shown as part of its Classified exhibition that closed at the end of last month.

He then created a "wanted"-style poster that read: "For the safe return of Damien Hirst's pencils I would like my artworks back that DACS and Hirst took off me in November. It's not a large demand... Hirst has until the end of this month to resolve this or on 31 July the pencils will be sharpened. He has been warned."

Yesterday, Cartrain told The Independent: "I went to the Tate Britain and by chance had a golden opportunity to borrow a packet of pencils from the Pharmacy exhibit. That same day I made up a fake police appeal poster advertising that the pencils had been removed from the Tate and that if anyone had any information they should contact the police on the phone number advertised.

"A few weeks later I went out and I returned home to find out the art and antiques squad from New Scotland Yard had called round with a warrant for my arrest."

He was told by custody officers that the pencils were valued at £500,000 and that he had damaged "the concept of a public artwork titled Pharmacy ... valued at £10,000,000". Cartrain is on bail and, if convicted, his actions will feature among the highest value modern art thefts in Britain. The box of pencils – a very rare "Faber Castell dated 1990 Mongol 482 Series" – will be put back by Hirst, although the installation is no longer on public display.

But that is not the end of it. Police also arrested Cartrain's 49-year-old father, who they suspected of harbouring the pencils. "Initially, we arrested his dad but it soon became clear that it was his son who was responsible," said a police source. "We arranged to arrest him by appointment. The act of theft was clearly a stunt to gain publicity."

A statement from Tate Gallery confirmed: "On Saturday 4 July 2009, a member of the public removed a box of pencils from the desk in Damien Hirst's installation Pharmacy. The matter is being investigated by the police."

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project