Hirst's spinning wheel brings good fortune

DAMIEN HIRST has helped many of his contemporaries make their reputations and now, quite by accident, he is doing it again - this time for a rank outsider.

The winner of one of Hirst's "Spin" paintings which the artist donated to the Big Issue as a prize for a competition last autumn turns out to be an aspiring artist. Chris Callaghan is employed as a support worker for people with learning difficulties, but enjoys painting portraits and murals on the side.

Mr Callaghan, in his late twenties, is selling the work in a sale of contemporary art at Christies on 22 April. The painting is expected to fetch between pounds 22,000 and pounds 28,000, and Mr Callaghan plans to live on the proceeds so that he can establish himself as a full-time artist.

Mr Callaghan, whose name has already been immortalised in the painting's title, Beautiful Big Issue What's got a Bottom on the Top Chris Callaghan Swirly Pink Painting (With Smoked Fag), will be sorry to part with the work, which for the past six months has been hanging in his mother's house because his one-room flat was too small.

"It's been nice to have owned a Damien Hirst," he said. "But I also can't deny that I could well use whatever money I get for it. I would like to use the money to support myself, while I concentrate on doing more of my painting."

Mr Callaghan, who lives in Liverpool, rarely enters competitions, but was lured by the prospect of joining the ranks of Charles Saatchi and owning a painting by the most celebrated artist of his generation.

"I thought it would be good to have the chance to own a Damien Hirst painting, and I like the type of questions that were set," he said. "I am also an artist myself, so I have a keen interest in many things to do with contemporary art."

The questions were made up by Hirst, who guest edited the Big Issue, the magazine established to provide income for homeless people, in the week of the competition last September. They were: What's got a bottom at the top? (answer: legs or a toilet); What goes up when the rain comes down? (an umbrella); When is a door not a door? (when it's ajar); When does an orange become a joker? (when it's taking the pith); and What's got two legs, one eye, one ear and goes "Mooooo"? (half a cow - a reference to Hirst's work: Mother and Child Divided).

Hirst began painting his celebrated Spin paintings in 1995, the year he won the Turner Prize in 1995 for Away from the Flock, a sheep in formaldehyde. All his Spin paintings are entitled Beautiful... followed by a series of other descriptive words relating to the work in question.

He was inspired by memories of the technique of spin painting which he saw as a child on the BBC's Blue Peter. The technique involves the spinning of the canvas on a potter's wheel and the pouring of household emulsion onto the spinning canvas to create a startling array of splatted colour.

Hirst pasted part of the Big Issue logo and a smoked cigarette onto Mr Callaghan's prize.

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