Many years ago in the United States, a wealthy magazine publisher with a famous name decided to run for president. And though he had a distinctive political/economic point of view, many observers felt the presidential run was nothing more than a form of advertising. The media exposure the publisher received which promoted his magazine because it shared his last name, was invaluable. That lesson keeps returning as the Damien Hirst auction approaches. Whatever the outcome of the sale, Hirst has continued to imprint himself on the broader public as the most famous living artist.
In India, the press is alive with reports of Sothebys decision to display 24 lots from the sale in New Delhi. The tone of the coverage ranges from flattered to triumphant. Rightfully, the Indian press sees the marketing effort as a validation of the country’s growing wealth and international sophistication. Here’s Sify picking up from a story in the Financial Times:
Sotheby’s said the number of Indian buyers at its auctions had doubled between 2004 and the end of last year, and that about one third of those buyers were new to the auction house. Fourteen works of Hirst will go on display in Delhi to attract new buyers from the Indian sub-continent.
Oliver Barker, senior international specialist in contemporary art at Sotheby’s, described the move as an “educational experience” for the auction house.
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“Collectors in India are very much trying to find ways into western art,” said Barker in the Financial Times. “In many ways, this is the most important exhibition by a non-Indian artist (Hirst) to be held in India.”
Barker has some other interesting observations in Thaindian.com:
“We hope the exhibition will generate interest among Indian buyers to participate in the London auction because there has been a lot of activity in the contemporary art collecting segment in developing nations worldwide. Indians have now started buying western art,” Barker said.
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“He has never run afoul of the animal rights lobby, though there have been questions raised. He ensures that his dead animals are sourced ethically,” Barker said.
From yet another Indian site, DNA:
Hirst—a Turner Prize winner—is a household name in his home country and in the West, but now auction houses would like it to be well known in India too. The reason: Indians have become big buyers of art thanks to their buoyant economy.
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In fact, Sotheby’s is expecting that most of the buyers for their ‘Hirst Mountain’ will be from India, Russia and the Gulf.
Indian masters like MF Husain, Raza and Souza have been breaking the million-dollar ceiling for some time now, and experts believe that Indian and NRI buyers are now ready to expand their horizons.
“If Hirst can sell to Indian art lovers then other non-Indian artists can also try their luck,” said an art critic.
Finally, word comes today from many sources, but Bloomberg has the best piece, that the platinum and diamond skull, “For the Love of God,” will go on a world tour commencing with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Starting November 1, and running through to December 15, the sculpture will be surrounded by other Dutch works that depict Memento Mori. This should re-assure some skeptics who thought the work might have been broken up for value of the stones. It is owned by a consortium including the artist himself.
Still more Hirst news today: Hirst will open two retail stores in London–one next door to Sotheby’s. Hirst signed a 10-year lease. Bloomberg has the news.