This exploration of the recent news reports about Damien Hirsts market and the actual prices paid over the last decade is available AMMpro subscribers. First time monthly subscribers get a 30-day grace period. Curious readers are welcome to subscribe to the monthly option and cancel before being billed.
Perhaps the strangest turn in the coverage of the art market this month has been the two prominent pieces on Damien Hirst at a time when his diminished standing has not seen a dramatic rise—or fall.
First we had David Colman's profile of Hirst in New York Magazine which seems like a leftover piece that got held during the run-up to the Hirst's Venice launch this Spring. Except there's one addition:
According to Hirst, as of early November, the show had already generated $330 million in sales.
Anyone following the Hirst market, in general, and his Venice show, in particular, knows that the Hirst may be able to make that $330m claim but most likely the buyers are what can best be described as engrossers, not end users.
Around the time of the Venice opening, there was a lot of chatter in the press suggesting strong demand. That chatter came from collectors already heavily committed to the Hirst market, many of whom are active buyers and sellers.
Privately there was very little talk of buyers in Venice. If the world was waiting for yet another comeback from Hirst (the Bacon-like paintings, the global spot extravaganza, and, now, the deep-sea treasures,) it would seem we're going to have to keep waiting.
Meanwhile, Felix Salmon takes to The New Yorker to further garble the picture with an argument against a straw man. To Salmon, art market opinions from the likes of Sarah Thornton and Robin Pogrebin are foolishly dismissive of Hirst after the apex of his market in September of 2008 as the global financial crisis entered its first jolts of dislocation:
That auction marked the end of Hirst as an art-market darling: his auction volumes and prices dropped, and bitter collectors who had spent millions on his art were left with work worth much less than what they had paid for it.
Salmon goes on to offer a finger-wagging lecture about the difference between the private market for art sales and the public market of auctions:
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