Skateboards: Hirst on wheels... yours for £1,200

Artist taps into the cool designer skateboard market, but the exorbitant prices he is charging have infuriated aficionados.
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The Independent Culture

Damien Hirst, the UK's richest living artist, has incurred the wrath of skateboarders after announcing that he is selling designer decks for up to £1,200.

The move reflects a rapidly growing market where contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons, Richard Prince and Christopher Wool offer their artwork for use on skateboards.

But skateboarders believe Hirst is being greedy by charging exorbitant prices. They say that the cost is out of tune with the culture and philosophy of the sport, which is intended to be affordable and available to all.

Hirst previously designed and sold skateboards in 2009 for the clothing company Supreme. However, those boards sold for a more modest £80.

Rob Mathieson, an artist and skateboarder, said: "It seems to me he is just being very greedy. The Supreme boards in 2009 were cool, collectible things and people could buy them to use as a skateboard. Now the price just seems ridiculous. Why put the design on a skateboard? Why not just put it on a rectangular piece of wood if you are selling it as a piece of art?"

Mark Foster, owner of Heroin and Landscape skateboard companies, added: "It's just another one of those cases where people who don't have anything to do with skateboarding are using it to make themselves look cool. Damien Hirst has always done interesting work – but I've never seen him skating down at Stockwell or the South Bank, and he's not sponsoring anyone or putting anything back into skating."

The market for skateboard decks has risen dramatically. Damien Hirst has been spotted in New York, signing skateboards, thereby greatly increasing their value. At auction, boards have recently soared past their pre-sale estimates. In June 2010, a set of three Jeff Koons decks were sold for $3,500 (£2,150), well over the $1,500 to $2,500 estimates.

However, not all skateboarders say Hirst is cashing in. Nick Jensen, an artist and professional skateboarder, said: "Warhol made the Campbell's soup cans, which are mass-produced, functional, low-budget objects, into grandiose, desirable, high-budget ones. I think Hirst is making a similar point."

Damien Hirst was unavailable for comment yesterday.