Damien Hirst equated money to "love and death" insisting that it is "something you need to respect," and that "you can't make art without somehow taking it on board."
Speaking to the BBC in a joint interview with Jeff Koons ahead of the American artist's exhibition at Hirst's Newport Street Gallery, in Vauxhall, south London, the bad boy of British art addressed a question on whether money obscured artistic creation.
“I think a lot of people think that artists need to be poor, or that you can't have a focus on money," he said. “When I did my auction, when I made all that money, it changed everything for me and it was made in such a short period of time."
He added “I think money is a huge part of our lives. I've always thought it's as important as love, or death, or something to come to terms with, something to understand. It's a key and it's something you need to respect."
As Hirst spoke, the camera showed Koons looking on understandingly.
Hirst insisted, “I definitely don't think it [money] should be considered a dirty word. And I think Andy Warhol made it okay for artists to deal with money. I think once that happen that you can't make art without somehow taking it on board."
One of the first artists to cut out the gallery—the traditional middleman—Hirst consigned 223 of his own works to Sotheby's in 2008. According to the New York Times, the two day auction grossed $200.7 million, setting a new record for a single-artist auction, surpassing Pablo Picasso's 88 work sale in 1993, which netted $20 million.
With his considerable wealth, Hirst is currently building massive underground expansion to his $61 million north London mansion that will include a subterranean swimming pool.
Meanwhile, Koons has a somewhat duplicitous relationship to cash. Describing his "Luxury and Degradation" series (1986) in an interviewahead of his 2015 exhibition at Vienna's Natural History museum, he said "I tried to show people they should learn to preserve their political and economic power rather than strive for luxury."
However, in the same interview he added "Sometimes I take a helicopter to travel to my farm, but I don't live a luxurious lifestyle."
"Jeff Koons: Now" is on view at Newport Street Gallery, London From May 18 – October 16.