A major new work from artist Damien Hirst pays tribute to George Michael


The news last Christmas that music icon George Michael had died unexpectedly shuddered a lot of people worldwide, but perhaps no more palpably did it hit than here in Dallas, where Michael and once made his home. Although he has his partner Kenny Goss eventually split romantically, they remained good friends, and both contributed much to the artistic culture of Dallas with the Goss-Michael Foundation. The gallery/museum/charity is a jewel of the North Texas art scene, with an impressive collection of works from many contemporary English artists, chief among them the bad boy of British modernism Damien Hirst.

So when we learned this week that Hirst had created a one-of-a-kind painting of George Michael, specifically to be auctioned off at the MTV RE:DEFINE fundraiser this weekend, we asked Kenny Goss to share his thoughts on the piece, the charity and George himself.                       

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice: When did you know Damien Hirst was doing this piece, and what you were going to do with it?  Kenny Goss: We knew about it a month or so ago. Damien shared with us that he was creating this especially for 2017 MTV RE:DEFINE. Damien has generously donated a number of pieces to the MTV RE:DEFINE auction over the years. Since this year is a tribute to George, he decided to create a one-of-a-kind piece honoring George.

 What does MTV RE:DEFINE mean to you? It means a lot in many ways. The Goss-Michael Foundation is the founding partner and both George and I have provided ongoing support to the event since its founding. George presented Staying Alive’s first-ever documentary on HIV/AIDS for MTV in 1998 and was a driving force behind MTV RE:DEFINE’s formation more than 10 years later. The event was founded here in Dallas and The Goss-Michael Foundation is proud to have helped make the event possible.

 Many in Dallas have known about George’s philanthropy, but the extent of his generosity was really revealed after he passed. What do you think it would mean to him that this work is going to a charity auction? George was very much aware and has been a supporter of MTV RE:DEFINE, since the event started in 2011. Both George and I have been huge fans, collectors and friends of Damien Hirst. The Goss-Michael Collection has one of the largest collections of Damien Hirst work in the world. Our Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain piece was recently featured in Tom Ford’s movie Nocturnal Animals.

Obviously, the piece — entitled Beautiful Beautiful George Michael Love Painting — is amazing. As a fan of Hirst, what about it stands out to you? The entire piece says “Damien.” What stands out to me most is Damien’s creativity in capturing the image of George in a way only Damien could. This was Damien’s idea, and his creative genius.

 What does the work mean to you personally? What has it captured that seems singular to you? It is such a significant work that pays tribute to George. It is emotionally and visually impactful. That Damien took the time to create something so special for MTV RE:DEFINE underlines his generosity to this event and the beneficiaries —The MTV Staying Alive Foundation and the Dallas Contemporary.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 24, 2017.