The first part of the Hirst sale totals £70.5 million with only two lots unsold (though Sotheby’s says both were sold before the auction reached an end.) Bloomberg reports the results with this quote:
“The sale was magnificent, a triumph,” London dealer Ivor Braka said in an interview. “At a time when other markets are reeling and the press are writing cynical and damning reports, the people with the free cash and the will have ignored the storm warnings and the voyage goes on.”
Carol Vogel’s report contains this quote:
Tobias Meyer, global head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, explained the total this way: “Damien Hirst is a global artist that can defy local economies.”
Vogel also makes this observation about the scene inside and outside the sale room:
The headlines had little effect on the scene outside the salesroom here. The street was filled with television camera crews; fans hoping to spot celebrities like Bianca Jagger; and a crowd of collectors, dealers and curiosity seekers waiting for the doors to open. Inside later it was standing room only. But most of the action was on the telephone, with Sotheby’s flying in employees from all over the world to handle the bidding.
But the Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow makes these unsubstantiated claims:
A disappointing result might have rattled buyers’ confidence in the entire art market, especially following yesterday’s financial crisis on Wall Street. [ . . . ] Art analysts were relieved but say the broader test of the sale will come Tuesday when Sotheby’s tries to find buyers for 167 additional artworks by Mr. Hirst that could sell for between £25 million and £36 million ($50 million and $71.9 million).
The only analyst to have linked the Hirst sale to the larger art market is Anders Petterson of Art Tactic. And his arguments are little more than assertions. How or why buyers would flee other categories and artists based on Hirst’s ability to pull in new buyers is difficult to parse as logic.
Peter Conrad recants his estimation of Hirst in The Guardian just before the sale:
I sneered at him as a greedy show-off and pitied the customers who would be paying exorbitant prices for his vitrines of grubby fag butts and tanks of sectioned animals. If I admired Hirst at all, it was for his cynical expertise at parting fools from their money – and, in this case, for depriving dealers of their customary share in his profits by selling directly to his gullible public.That’s what I thought until I saw the exhibition of his wares
One wonders if this newfound esteem for the artist doesn’t have a hint of the zealotry of the convert, and a late conversion at that.