What Does the Hirst Auction Mean for the Rest of the Art Market?
Felix Salmon calls the top of the Hirst market today based on a number of tells, including the infamous magazine cover index. He points to this Time cover (left)with Robert Hughes’s story that coincided with the top of the Eighties art market. (As a bonus, here’s Hughes on Hirst.)
At the same time, Art Tactic has been trying to use the Hirst sale as a barometer of the overall art market, a measure of market confidence. But that seems too much of a stretch. The Hirst sale is unprecedented for the amount of work by a Contemporary artist appearing on the market at one time. The only measure it can provide is of the appetite for Hirst’s own work. And even there the nature of the works don’t allow easy direct comparison.
Nonetheless, Salmon is saying something different when he calls the top of the Hirst market. He’s suggesting that the sale will succeed but exhaust all other opportunities for Hirst to grow his market:
Hirst has done a magnificent job of riding the Veblen curve: demand for his works has only increased as their prices have soared. But that curve can’t keep on rising forever, and September 15 — the Hirst evening auction — will mark its high point.
In other words, the Hirst sale may be a bit like the AOL-Time Warner merger or the last of the big buyout deals in early 2007: a huge success that doesn’t get topped for a long time.
On a final note, it may seem like a very long time ago. But the (Red) Auction that Hirst organized in February was also seen as telling measure of confidence in Contemporary art. Though much broader based, that sale scored big even as there was tension and anxiety in the financial markets.
Hirst: Calling the Top (Market Movers/Portfolio.com)