A woman living in Palm Beach, Florida, struck a Damien Hirst sculpture said to be worth $3m after driving her Rolls-Royce through the backyard of collector and Museum of Modern Art trustee Steven Tananbaum and his wife Lisa.
In late March, an unnamed 66-year-old woman drove her Rolls-Royce sedan through a backyard located on Canterbury Lane, Palm Beach, where it struck a sculpture that the homeowner told the Palm Beach Daily News was worth $3m. Images shared by the Palm Beach Police show what appears to be Hirst’s Sphinx (2017) pushed off its base in the Tananbaums’ garden. The sculpture was part of a Hirst’s Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable exhibition that was staged during the 2017 Venice Biennale.
Sphinx and other works included in the show were created to look like sculptures that had been recovered from an abandoned shipwreck and were still covered in coral, barnacles, urchins and other ocean flora and fauna. It marked Hirst’s first major show in nearly a decade and was widely seen as a comeback. Hirst also created a mockumentary for the show that gave the pieces a fictional backstory of having been abandoned at the bottom of a sea after the boat carrying the work sank off the coast of East Africa.
After the car struck Sphinx, the woman continued driving her luxury vehicle through the Tananbaums’ backyard and over a seawall, falling onto the beach that borders the property, police told the Palm Beach Daily News. When police found the car, the vehicle was suspended on the seawall with one end touching the sand of the beach, according to a police report.
The woman could not recall the hours before the crash and did not appear to be intoxicated, police told the Palm Beach Daily News. Representatives for the Tananbaums did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Tananbaums are major collectors of contemporary and post-war art. In 2019, Steven faced calls to step down as a MoMA trustee over ties between GoldenTree Asset Management, the hedge fund he co-founded, and Puerto Rico’s financial crisis. In 2019, GoldenTree owned at least $2.5bn of Puerto Rico’s debt.
“People died after Hurricane Maria and [Tananbaum] didn’t think twice about profiting from the disaster. If MoMA cares about the wellbeing of other humans more than money, it must take action,” Gina De Jesus, an organiser with New York Communities for Change, said in 2019.
In early 2020 after two years of legal battles, Tananbaum settled a lawsuit with dealer Larry Gagosian and his namesake gallery after he claimed the dealer never delivered on his purchase of three Jeff Koons sculptures for which he’d collectively paid $13m.