Damien Hirst announces the direct auction of his artwork in September
Sotheby’s announce last night that it will hold an auction of Damien Hirst’s art on September 15th and 16th in London. Here’s the Bloomberg story, a story in the UK’s online magazine First Post and a brief mention in the NY Times.
Patterned after the hugely successful Pharmacy sale (though the $20 + million haul on that sale now sounds a bit quaint) which ignited Hirst’s market even as many observers feared it would depress prices, the new sale comes at a crucial juncture in the Contemporary art market. It is by no means a guarantee that Hirst and Sotheby’s will be able to make the sale work. But doubters who point to the troubled journey of Hirst’s $100 million diamond-encrusted skull will have to contend with the phenomenal Auction (Red) numbers.
Though Sotheby’s has not released estimates for the whole sale–or as yet a list of the lots beyond The Golden Calf, estimated at between $16 and $24 million–it has already announced that the sale has the potential to be a greatest-hits collection of Hirst’s most sought-after work.
“Beautiful Inside My Head Forever is an historic sale which incorporates an extraordinary range of works by Mr. Hirst,” Sotheby’s publicity department says, “all created over the past two years. From monumental formaldehyde sculptures to new paintings which expand on the artist’s classic themes such as butterflies, cancer cells and pills; from exquisite new cabinets to insightful preparatory drawings, the works in the sale document the full breadth of the artist’s creative output.”
Hirst already takes a greater portion of his sale proceeds than most artists. This new arrangement shows the artist flexing his muscle further. Read between the lines in this quote from the press release:
“After the success of the Pharmacy auction, I always felt I would like to do another auction. It’s a very democratic way to sell art and it feels like a natural evolution for contemporary art. Although there is risk involved, I embrace the challenge of selling my work in this way. I never want to stop working with my galleries. This is different. The world’s changing, ultimately I need to see where this road leads.”
Can the market absorb all of this work? Will Hirst subvert or enhance the value of his works already in collectors hands? What do his dealers think? Well, here are the two dealers commenting in the press release, first Gagosian, then Jopling:
“As Damien’s long-term gallery, we’ve come to expect the unexpected. He can certainly count on us to be in the room with paddle in hand.”
“I’ve stood alongside him in all his ventures including his strategic forays into the auction world, which have certainly helped to broaden his market. . . . [O]urs has never been a traditional marriage and I look forward to many more adventures to come.”
These questions–and more–will be answered in September.