The revelation that Alberto Mugrabi has bought 40% of the Hirst paintings sold at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in the past year is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the artist’s resale volume has dropped precipitously in the last year. Sarah Thornton estimates in The Economist that Hirst’s 2009 sales volume at auction was only 7% of his record total in 2008 and that 2010 will see lower turnover still:
A seller’s disappointment, however, is a buyer’s opportunity. Alberto Mugrabi, a dealer and devoted supporter of most things Hirst, observed the “Beautiful” sale carefully, but bought little. By contrast, he admits to buying 40% of the Hirst paintings that have come up for sale at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in the past year. “I believe in the artist,” he says. The Mugrabi family owns some 110 Hirsts, including an installation that features 30 sheep, two doves, a shark and a splayed cow in formaldehyde. The Mugrabis offered $35m for the artist’s diamond skull, “For the Love of God”, but failed to secure the work that was marketed at $100m and has never sold. “The Mugrabis rarely buy directly from me,” says Mr Hirst. “We can never work out a deal because they want such fierce prices.” The Mugrabis liken the tumble in Mr Hirst’s secondary prices to Andy Warhol’s in the early 1990s. “In the long term, the market will be more than fine. I couldn’t be more optimistic,” says Mr Mugrabi.
Hands Up for Hirst (The Economist)