Does It Matter That Hirst’s Art Doesn’t Sell at 2008 Peak Prices? It was kind of funny to see artist Richard Prince defend Damien Hirst on Twitter against Artnet’s analysis of his market since the now-infamous Beautiful Inside My Head Forever Sale. It was even funnier to see market scourge Jerry Saltz chime in too.
Neither needed to bother. The heart of Artnet’s analysis is that Hirst’s market has suffered ever since the sale. That’s a well-known fact. The volume of Hirst’s secondary sales has remained fairly steady in the years after the auction that took place on the eve of the financial crisis.
Artnet goes on to identify $8m worth of art that was resold publicly (lord knows how much traded from the dealers who felt compelled to buy during the sale) for prices that recouped only a little more than 60% of the auction prices.
- After enticing buyers to spend $8.1 million at “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever,” the same 19 works only managed to bring in about $5.2 million after they each mounted the auction block a second time—a collective loss of nearly $3 million.
Pointing to the loss only suggests artnet misunderstands how markets work. The real measure of a market is not when someone pays a lot of the “asset.” Overspending in a boom is easy. What’s hard is to sell in down market. Art is even more extreme than many other assets where a sale might allow the buyer to repurpose something of value. Stocks, bonds, real estate and commodities get “puked up” by those who overpaid when they “capitulate” by giving up on any future hope the asset will recover its value.
When buyers capitulate on art, we never see it again. A barrel of oil bought by a speculator who never intends to receive the commodity or refine it can always be sold to someone who has an industrial use for it. That sale may be a loss but it is a sale. An artist nobody wants anymore can no longer be sold. The art is left on the wall or put in storage, sometimes the fate is even worse. At times over the last few hundred years there have been works of art nearly lost forever because no buyers existed save a single, far-sighted (or foolish, depending upon your perspective) patron.
The mere fact that there are buyers for Hirst’s works at 60% of the 2008 value is a validation or Hirst’s market prowess, not a revelation of his fall. Of course, none of this has any bearing on whether Hirst is a “good” artist or whether his works are of lasting art historical value. But Hirst’s market staying power is quite remarkable on the face of it. …
Josh Roth Dies at 40: The Hollywood Reporter has the news that UTA’s Joshua Roth died over the weekend. He leaves three small children and his wife, Sonya, an executive at Christie’s. THR says the cause was heart failure. …
Third-Party Guarantees Eat the Auctions: It’s no secret that the hybrid private/public sale of works supported by a third-party guarantee has had a substantial effect on the very top of the art market. We don’t have great numbers on the use of guarantees until now. Scott Reyburn’s column this weekend contained these interesting numbers:
- Last year, guaranteed works represented more than 40 percent of the estimated value at the Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips evening auctions of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art, according to research by Pi-eX. Almost 90 percent of those guarantees came from third parties hoping either to buy the work, or share the profit above the agreed minimum price, Pi-eX’s report said. […] The Pi-eX research, based on 250 evening sales from 2007 to 2017, showed that returns on third-party guarantees shrank in 2017, making them more attractive to sellers and buyers, rather than to 1031-minded investors.