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Done and diamond dusted: Walsh buys Hirst creation

From shock merchant to the greatest living artist of our time -- Damien Hirst's works have sharply divided opinion.

But this month as his first retrospective, which spans his 25-year career, opens at the Tate Modern, his cash-rich Irish fans are still firmly behind him.

Pop mogul Louis Walsh has just purchased a painting by the 46-year old artist, who is now estimated to be worth more than €250m.

The multi-millionaire music manager handpicked the work of art, which is covered in thousands of speckles of diamond dust, from the butterfly-wing collection

Walsh, whose expanding art collection includes Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Louis le Brocquy, was said to have been "particularly taken" with the butterfly paintings which are courting a wave of controversy in the UK.

The painting will be kept at his Miami home, where The X Factor judge has recently invested in a top wireless security and surveillance system.

Other high-profile Irish collectors of Hirst's work include Bono, Denis Desmond, Joe Elliot, who has a "spin" painting, and property tycoon Johnny Ronan, who is said to be good friends with the artist.

The butterfly exhibit, called In and Out of Love, comprises of a two-room installation which features live butterflies growing from pupae on canvases in one small, humid room, and dead butterflies stuck to brightly coloured paintings in the other.

One of the paintings from the group, which has become as widely recognised as the artist's previous Spot paintings, fetched €2.7m at an auction in London late last year.

Opening up recently about his passion for art, Walsh said: "I love it. Because you can look at it. You can't look at money in the bank. If you've got an Andy Warhol or a Damien Hirst, you can enjoy it. I don't keep any of it in Ireland though; it's all abroad. I have someone looking after it for me."

His hobby started 12 years ago when the work of renowned Irish artist Le Brocquy caught his eye.

See Life magazine, Page 24

Sunday Independent