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Damien Hirst: Chasing the art, not money

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Art and money
  • Damien Hirst is thought to be the wealthiest living artist
  • Latest exhibition in Hong Kong features pink diamond encrusted baby's skull
  • He does not believe that money has got in the way of his art

(CNN) -- Artist Damien Hirst doesn't have a problem with money.

The multi-millionaire is estimated to be the wealthiest living artist, but believes he remains true to his artistic integrity.

"I've always tried to be in the situation where money's a by-product of what I'm trying to do. No matter how big the money gets, you always have to make sure you're not using the art to chase the money, you're using the money to chase the art," he says.

"I've always been able to take all the money in the bank and put it on one sculpture."

Entitled "For Heaven's Sake" the platinum and pink diamond-studded infant's skull is the glistening centerpiece of Hirst's latest exhibition at Hong Kong's new Gagosian Gallery.

Artistic differences

Displayed alongside a series of photorealistic butterflies, it's a more upbeat show that perhaps he's known for.

"I just wanted to show things I've been working on more recently. There are a few things from 2008. We just had a crazy financial meltdown so I thought I'd do a show that's a bit more optimistic than my usual shows."

Hirst has never been far from controversy -- his earlier work has included dead animals suspended in formaldehyde -- and he's equally happy to go against convention in the business side of the art world.

In 2008 he took a gamble by auctioning his work rather than going though a dealer. It paid off making $198 million, but Hirst is modest about the move.

"Lots of people say I was a genius and I was very clever when I did that. But I think it was luck," he says.

"Another week later and it could have failed miserably. It was sort of an idiotic move in a way. I say 'phew' rather than 'genius'."

Some have also criticized Hirst, like many other big name artists, for not actually making much of his own work. The diamond-encrusted skull was made by London jewelers Bentley & Skinners and the butterfly pictures produced by Hirst's artisans.

"People have always said things like that, and no matter how many times I answer the question people will always go but you didn't make it," he says.

"(It's my work) only in the same way that a Frank Gehry can be described as a Frank Gehry house. I'm sure that Mrs. Prada doesn't make the jackets either, but we all call them Prada and are happy to buy them. And maybe if you bought one that was actually made by Mrs. Prada we might not like it as much."