The Strategy Behind the Hirst Sale Was to Bring In New Buyers;
Did It Work?
Sotheby’s released some statistics about the Hirst sale. The buyer data is only for the Evening sale of the more expensive lots. But 35% of the buyers were new to the Contemporary art department and 18% were new to Sotheby’s entirely. Of the registered bidders, only 16% were new to Sotheby’s which suggests the new bidders were more aggressive.
Sotheby’s says that 25% of the bidders were from “new markets” which one presumes means the so-called Emerging Markets of Russia, Asia and the Gulf States. These numbers do not reflect dealers or art advisors who may have been bidding for “new” clients.
Bloomberg puts an oddly negative spin on the whole thing but trying to connect the lack of American buyers to the financial crisis. But that forgets the stated ambition of both Hirst and Sotheby’s to pitch the show toward new buyers from outside the collecting community. Sothbey’s and Hirst may have said that to give the sale cover but it doesn’t negate the fact that their stated strategy worked very well. Bloomberg quotes a former Sotheby’s employee, Jorg-Michael Bertz, who is now an art adviser:
“There weren’t many major collectors or dealers in the room either,” said Bertz in a telephone interview. “It was a completely different crowd.”
Sotheby’s Ground-Breaking Two-Day Auction of New Works by Damien Hirst (Sotheby’s Press Release)
Hirst Art Lures Russians; Crisis Saps US Demand, Dealers Say (Bloomberg)