Earlier this year, I embarked on a journey which saw me take 11 flights, crossing three continents, visiting 11 art galleries in eight cities and sleeping on six couches to amass over 30,000 air miles in just 14 days.
I had entered the Damien Hirst Spot Challenge - a private jet-fuelled gallery crawl, rewarding the international super rich with free art - as #AVERAGEJOE, embodying the collective hopes and desires of people I knew and thousands more I had never met, each united in my quest by the prospect of sticking a middle finger up at the establishment and helping the underdog win.
Unlike all the other hopefuls, my bank account was empty. "How could anyone go from a bedroom in Shoreditch to Hong Kong via LA without any money?" Only one week before the closing date of the first exhibition in Los Angeles, I figured that my best hope of raising the £10,000 I needed to complete the journey was to sell shares online. The deal was set: In exchange for a £20 investment, each shareholder would be rewarded with an original work of art by me and a share of the Damien Hirst print I would win (if I completed the journey!). This would enable me to travel the world and produce a short film with my studio, Pollocks.
I worked solidly for two days and two nights, creating the visuals to outline my concept. Without a publicity machine behind me, my only hope was that the idea of #AVERAGEJOE would somehow go viral. Providence came to my aid in the form of a tweet from TV magician Derren Brown to his 1 million followers "This looks like fun. I shall invest. He's heading off tomorrow so be quick if it appeals." As if by magic, within five hours enough shares had been sold for me to conquer America...Although, not necessarily make it back. It wasn't until I arrived in Beverly Hills three days later, that Federica Sardos Albertini from Tel Aviv, bought the final share. I no longer had to worry about being stranded five thousand miles away without ruby slippers to get me home. With a sense of relief, I celebrated by diving into the Pacific Ocean. #AVERAGEJOE had done it!
To date, I haven't received my reward from Damien. That is except for a brief handshake at the opening of his Tate Retrospective last month, when I manoeuvred my way past security without an invitation and delivered him a collective request inside a wax-sealed envelope.
It read more or less as follows... If the prize is a print created in a series that is ratio to the 100 or so contestants who also completed the challenge, we can estimate this to carry a rough value of about £10,000: leaving my shareholders with 0% return on their collective investment. As stated in the small print on the Gagosian Gallery website, however:
"Damien Hirst reserves the right to determine the size and value of each print."
Considering the above clause and the collective global efforts made for this one piece of art, I'm asking Damien to kindly dig deeper, and reward the 500 shareholders behind #AVERAGEJOE with something as big and valuable as this crazy idea deserves.
Who knows? Anything is possible...
Follow Josef Valentino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JosefValentino