United Kingdom

Anger as Damien Hirst gets £15million in Covid-19 loans and furloughed staff on the taxpayer

Damien Hirst, the world's richest artist, was lambasted last night for claiming £15 million in Government Covid loans and furloughing staff at taxpayers' expense.

Hirst, 56, famous for his pickled shark creation and his £315 million fortune, used his art firms to access the public purse last year.

Newly filed accounts for his main art trading firm, Print and Editions, reveal that his group of UK companies took out a three-year £15 million 'coronavirus large business interruption loan' in October.

The accounts state: 'We have… applied and utilised the government job retention scheme to preserve cash and manage costs.'

Hirst, 56, famous for his pickled shark creation and his £315 million fortune, used his art firms to access the public purse last year (pictured at Sotheby's in 2008)

Newly filed accounts for his main art trading firm, Print and Editions, reveal that his group of UK companies took out a three-year £15 million 'coronavirus large business interruption loan' in October (pictured in 2008)

Prints and Editions, which buys and sells art, made a £3.9 million loss for 2019, but accounts show it has £183 million of art on its books and is £6 million in the black.

His other firm, Science (UK), shows that the highest-paid director – believed to be Hirst – received £236,000 in 2019. He has many other commercial interests.

The firm, which makes his original art, had 175 employees in 2019 and paid £6.8 million in wages. It is not clear how many were furloughed or the cost to the public purse. The parent firm for Print and Editions and Science (UK) is Science Ltd, based in Jersey.

Prints and Editions, which buys and sells art, made a £3.9 million loss for 2019, but accounts show it has £183 million of art on its books and is £6 million in the black. Pictured: His most famous piece

George Turner, executive director of the charity TaxWatch, said: 'It is galling to see people that used offshore companies to reduce their tax bills coming back to the taxpayer for handouts in times of crisis.'

Professor Richard Murphy, of Sheffield University Management School, said: 'I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that the Government is subsidising an already highly profitable business that ends in a tax haven.'

Hirst, part of the Young British Artists movement of the 1990s, has a private art collection worth £180 million and takes a 70 per cent cut on pieces his firms sell instead of the usual 50 per cent.

He did not respond to requests for comment. 

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