Melik Kaylan’s tart views in the WSJ spare no one. Dealers are haughty but also panderers; Hirst is creature of the vulgar new money being made in Russia, China and the Gulf States; and art is for social climbers.
Because Sotheby’s and Christie’s appear to operate a species of global commodities exchange, with dates and prices instantly disclosed on the Internet, it all feels so much more transparent to, say, a new Chinese millionaire. In the first place, there will be a local office near him co-headed by a Chinese speaker who understands the millionaire’s social sensitivities — so much more pleasant than having to kow-tow to a self-important New York or London gallerist. It puts an end to a long era in which superior dealers could treat outsider clients with the snooty hauteur of a French waiter. Above all, though, the auction houses’ relative transparency — the fact that prices are set and transactions occur out in the open, for all to see — will appeal to the international new money crowd that knows plenty about how money and markets work.
Dealers have always offered clients a higher degree of discretion than the public space of an auction ever can. That has traditionally been their great asset. But let’s be candid: Nobody in Dubai or Shanghai wants a pickled cow to gaze at musingly in solitude for the sheer beauty of its hindquarters. When today’s clients buy such wares, privacy is the last thing on their minds.
The important question is whether the Hirst sale is truly driven by new buyers seeking access to his work that can’t be satisfied by his dealers. Sotheby’s is sending the works to New York (well, the Hamptons) and New Delhi but not to Dubai or Shanghai. But The Art Newspaper turns the equation around by suggesting that Hirst’s volume of production has overflowed what his dealers can place:
the scale of his output requires him to find a steady stream of new buyers; the global reach of the auction house will have proved decisive. “Sotheby’s promotion is not directed at existing collectors. They are targeting new buyers, especially in parts of the world which have only recently started collecting contemporary art,” says a trade source
The Times also picks up the Art Newspaper’s claims and wraps up the whole package including the shows in Bridgehampton and New Delhi:
This will be Hirst’s first show in India. “Until now Indian collectors have primarily shown interest in art from their own culture,” said Oliver Barker, senior international specialist at Sotheby’s. “Now they are thinking global.”
Hirst’s Marketing End Run (Wall Street Journal)
Revealed: the Art Damien Hirst Failed to Sell (The Art Newspaper)
200 Unsold Hirst Works Looking for An Owner at Sotheby’s (The Times of London)