Frank Dunphy. Photo: Sotheby’s Frank Dunphy. Photo: Sotheby’s

Comprising over 200 lots of artworks, ‘Yellow Ball: The Frank and Lora Dunphy Collection’ is a two-part sale and exhibition that charts the irreverent 1990s art scene – of which Frank Dunphy and his wife Lorna were at the very heart.

For many, the names Frank and Lorna Dunphy will be immediately recognisable: Frank Dunphy was the former business manager, mentor and so-called ‘partner in crime’ of Damien Hirst for more than 15 years. Now retired, the Irish-born former accountant and financial advisor had also worked with Hirst’s fellow YBAs, Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

During his 15-year working relationship as Hirst’s financial advisor, Dunphy is credited with facilitating numerous deals, including the private sale of Hirst’s Hymn in 1999 – the first Damien Hirst work to sell for more than £1 million.

Frank Dunphy and Damien Hirst in front of Hirst’s ‘N-CHLOROACETYL-L-PHENYLALANINE (PFS) CRYSTALLINE’, 2008. Photo: Martin Beddall Frank Dunphy and Damien Hirst in front of Hirst’s ‘N-CHLOROACETYL-L-PHENYLALANINE (PFS) CRYSTALLINE’, 2008. Photo: Martin Beddall

At the core of the Dunphy collection is a number of works by Damien Hirst, the large majority of which were given as gifts of affection or in jest, which chronicle the work and the pair’s adventures together.

Hirst and Dunphy met over a game of snooker at the Groucho Club, a popular London artist hangout spot. Sotheby’s specialist Olly Barker told artnet, “Damien’s mother was a member as well, and it was her who who first approached Frank to help her son out because Damien had a huge amount of financial success but was young and didn’t really know how to handle the business side of his affairs”.

Damien Hirst, ‘Beautiful, all round, lovely day, big toys for big kids, Frank and Lorna, when we are no longer children we are already dead, painting’, 1998. Photo: Sotheby’s Damien Hirst, ‘Beautiful, all round, lovely day, big toys for big kids, Frank and Lorna, when we are no longer children we are already dead, painting’, 1998. Photo: Sotheby’s

A particular standout of the collection is one of Hirst’s ‘Spin Paintings’ which Frank and Lorna Dunphy received as a gift in 1998: Beautiful, all round, lovely day, big toys for big kids, Frank and Lorna, when we are no longer children we are already dead, painting.

Hirst started making his ‘Spin Paintings’, which are characterised by their long, complicated titles and bright colours, in 1992. The artist describes the paintings as, “childish… in the positive sense of the word”.

Tracey Emin, ‘MY HEART IS WITH YOU AND I LOVE YOU ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS’, 2006. Photo: Sotheby’s Tracey Emin, ‘MY HEART IS WITH YOU AND I LOVE YOU ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS’, 2006. Photo: Sotheby’s

The Dunphys also bought high-caliber works by other renowned YBAs, including Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread, Angus Fairhurst and Michael Craig-Martin. These works speak to the iconoclastic and rebellious spirit of the time

Andy Warhol, ‘Dollar Sign’, 1982. Photo: Sotheby’s Andy Warhol, ‘Dollar Sign’, 1982. Photo: Sotheby’s

In addition to work by Hirst and the YBAs, the auction also features blue-chip pieces by icons like Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and revolutionary Italian artist Lucio Fontana (1889 to 1968).

Formerly in the collection of David Whitney, Warhol’s Dollar Sign was made in 1982 and is a strong example of why Warhol is considered the undefeated king of pop art. The work is a a comment on the dichotomy of high versus low art, as well as money as the ultimate symbol of power, wealth and prestige.

Frank and Lorna Dunphy. Photo: Sotheby’s Frank and Lorna Dunphy. Photo: Sotheby’s

In a joint statement the Dunphys said, “The art scene has been our life for the past 30 years”.

“Living with the art has been like living with our friends. Much of it is steeped in happy memories, and so much of it we bought ourselves simply because we loved it. But time waits for no man, and the time has come to say goodbye to some of the art, though not the memories nor the friendships.”

Previews to the auction begin on 14 September.

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