Damien Hirst's portrait of the Queen found in government archives
UK artist Damien Hirst’s first portrait of the Queen, which was secretly donated to the nation, has emerged from a government archive, a report from the Daily Telegraph has claimed.
The piece, entitled “Beautiful Portrait, The Queen”, was kept alongside a number of watercolours of plants, portraits of aristocrats and other works displayed in various government departments and embassies around the world.
It was completed in 2014 and was given on March 23rd 2015, with Hirst having already donated one of his dot paintings.
The portrait was given to the Government Art Collection last year following an approach from officials, with Hirst understood to be a supporter of the scheme.
According to reports, the discovery has shocked a number of art experts, with some even going so far as to say that it proved Hirst had completed his transformation from a “bad boy” independent artist that prided himself on shocking the mainstream, to being a fully fledged member of the establishment.
The Government Art Collection’s annual report, which details the pieces acquired for the nation on behalf of ministers, did not disclose details of the painting’s existence, magnifying the shock and surprise surrounding its emergence from the catacombs of government ownership.
The work is a typical example of the “spin” technique that helped make Hirst famous during his rise to fame as a contemporary artist, but it has never been displayed in a public gallery due to it being taken straight from Hirst’s studio.
Experts estimate the piece would fetch millions of pounds if sold at auction, although such an occurrence remains unlikely.
Nevertheless, such a substantial predicted price tag is a reflection of the perceived importance of the work, which represents a noticeable stage in the artist’s career.
Alastair Sooke, the BBC broadcaster and Telegraph art critic, said: “My first reaction was total surprise to find Damien Hirst, who back in the 1990s was the enfant terrible of British art, has made a portrait of the Queen.
“It is the last subject you might expect from one of the Young British Artists most notable for the shock tactics in making art to focus on the monarch.
“The trajectory of his career has gone from bad boy of British art to owning a Gloucester pad, appearing on the rich list and becoming part of the establishment.”
A date for when the work will go on public display has not yet been released, with a spokesman for the Government Art Collection declining to comment when approached by the Daily Telegraph.