Murderme: Hirst's £100m art collection on view

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The Independent Online

A new exhibition featuring a luminous coffin, a collage of topless models, coloured skulls and a series of Hoovers will showcase Damien Hirst's private art collection and reveal something of his influences and inspirations.

The Serpentine Gallery's show, In The Darkest Hour There May Be Light, which opens today, displays more than 60 pieces from the artist's "murderme" collection. It is the first time the public has glimpsed the assembled works. It features contemporary classics by Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Jeff Koons, as well as a host of works by young British artists. Iconic works include Bacon's A Study for a Figure at the Base of a Crucifixion, four works by Koons, including hanging Hoovers and a giant yellow installation called Moon, several works by the graffiti artist Banksy and three Warhol silkscreens.

The items comprise just a fraction of Hirst's collection - estimated to be worth £100m - and he hopes to display the full array in a dedicated museum at his Toddington Manor country house in Gloucestershire.

Hirst began selecting the works of 24 artists to feature in the exhibition a year ago and has curated the show himself. Michael Joo, a New York artist who has four installations in the exhibition, said it would give an insight into Hirst's mind.

"If you look at it, you get an insight into Damien and what moves him. It's an opportunity to get a peek," he said.

Hirst is known to be an obsessive collector and began accumulating works by exchanging art with his friends. Hans Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of exhibitions at the gallery, said Hirst had championed emerging artists by buying their work. In an interview with Obrist, Hirst explained how he often bought works "for personal reasons or friendships" but also to support emerging names. "It seems really simple to me: if you like their work and they need money, rather than loan them the money, you buy a piece," said Hirst at the time. He added that when he first started out, he was supported by a number of artists himself.

It is not the first time Hirst has displayed works at the Serpentine. In 1994, he curated Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away ...

The exhibition, which is sponsored by Hiscox, runs until 28 January 2007.

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