When Gagosian gallery announced that a Damien Hirst spot painting extravaganza would open at 11 locations all around the world, they also issued a challenge: anyone who saw all 11 shows (a feat proved by a gallery-issued stamped card) would win a special Hirst spot painting print, in an edition only as large as the number of winners. In a press release published today, the gallery has announced two winners: Fast Company journalist Jeff Chu and Valentine Uhovski, a former child star in Russia and co-creator of the controversial high-society-skewering Web site Socialite Rank, as well as ArtRuby, a contemporary art Web site.
Uhovski hit his last of the 11 stops at Gagosian’s Davies Street space in London at 2:30 p.m. on January 20. Completing the challenge took him just eight days (think about that jet lag for a minute), beginning in New York at 6 p.m. on January 12. From New York, Uhovski continued on to Los Angeles, then Hong Kong, Athens, Rome Geneva, Paris, and finally London. Jeff Chu’s journey remains more mysterious, but Gagosian reports that the journalist completed the challenge at the gallery’s Madison Avenue space only minutes after Uhovski in London.
Reuters blogger Felix Salmon estimated the cost of the full trip at $108,572, maintaining the luxury level befitting a global nomad. Meanwhile, Jennifer Bostic pitched a much more reasonable $5,768 for two people, an amount that would likely be covered with the sale of the prize print. So who among us could actually manage such an odyssey? Well, as an articles editor for Fast Company, Chu probably doesn’t pull enough comped travel to make it gratis, or earn enough money to go the high-style route. He noted on Twitter that it would be possible to cobble together the flights for $3,000, and that he did have a good stock of frequent flyer miles in his pocket. Chu made it on a budget — and the gallery served him some Veuve Clicquot at the finish line.
Uhovski doesn’t quite match Chu’s low-key trip. The writer, who previously worked at Fashion Week Daily and contributed to fashion outlets like W Magazine as well as his ill-fated society site, blogged the trip extensively, explaining that he wanted to take on the challenge because of a love for "The Amazing Race" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." In one hop, Uhovski took “16 hours” to get to Athens, with a stopover in Qatar. Tip: the “elite traveler shuttle buses” in the Doha airport are apparently pretty great. Uhovski’s background makes the story even stranger.
Uhovski and his step-sibling Olga Rei come from a wealthy Russian family. After making their way into the New York society party scene at a young age, the pair launched their Web site as a way to have power over the people whose reputations they coveted. Uhovski and Rei only unveiled themselves as the site’s operators after it shut down.
These are the only people yet who have made it to the end of the challenge and saw 11 galleries worth of monotonous Hirst spots: a workaday journalist and a fallen New-York-by-way-of-Russia society sniper who also happens to be… a journalist. No word yet as to what they’ll do with their prizes, or how they’re dealing with the eye fatigue.
Hirst fanatics and travel aficionados can also check on the status of other Hirst Challenge competitors on the gallery's Web site.