Damien Hirst thought he had lost his £20,000 winnings from the Turner Prize when he couldn’t find the cheque on him the following morning – but it turned out he had put the whole lot behind the bar at a London members’ club, he revealed on Sunday.
Britain’s richest living artist spoke about his life from his background and art to his battle with drink and drugs on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.
Hirst, 47, told presenter Kirsty Young: “When I won the Turner Prize, Brian Eno gave me a cheque on stage. The next day, I didn’t have it.” After phoning friends, it emerged he had put the money behind the bar at the Groucho Club in London to buy everyone drinks.
He said that “being Damien Hirst was difficult” and he did all his socialising drunk. “I had to learn to be sober, I had to learn to socialise, I had to learn to be in public situations.” He revealed that sober he had to “relearn” sex “because I had sex totally drunk for years”.
“I saw myself recently getting the Turner Prize and I was out of my mind drunk, slurring my words… It makes me cringe,” he said. Hirst was awarded the prize in 1995 for works including Mother and Child Divided, of a cow and its calf in formaldehyde.
Hirst started drinking cider when he was 14 and stopped drinking six years ago after talking to his mother. “I tried to stop for ages, but I kept trying and kept failing.” He added: “You’re selfish without realising it when you’re drinking.”
Hirst was the first guest of the new series of the long-running Radio 4 programme, which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. His choice of artists included The Beatles, The Clash, The Stone Roses and Joni Mitchell.