As NowPublic previously reported, widely-acclaimed British artist Damien Hirst set a first-day auction record for sales of his controversial works. After two days, the auction soared to a record breaking $200 million (£111 million) for the sale of 218 items.
Love or hate him, Hirst has outpaced Picasso sales tenfold and “is believed to be a dollar billionaire”.
Is this art for the rich made by own of their own?
Multi-millionaire artist Damien Hirst wildly exceeded expectations on Tuesday with a record-breaking sale of 218 items for 111 million pounds, underscoring the resilience of the high-end art market.
A further two items were sold privately on Monday and three remained unsold on Tuesday after the unprecedented sale that bypassed the traditional dealer network and instead went direct to the auction rooms of Sotheby’s in London.
“It is iconic; inherently British,” said one bidder at the Sotheby’s auction who asked to remain anonymous. “His work challenges people, and visually it is stunning.”
Despite a global economic downturn, the auction put paid to fears Hirst’s mammoth clear-out sale could flood the art market and hit prices. After taking 70.55 million pounds on Monday night, a morning and an afternoon sale on Tuesday brought in a further 41 million pounds.
Auction houses have been appealing to “recession-proof” buyers in the Middle East and Russia, where record oil prices have boosted already massive fortunes, along with the super-rich in emerging economies such as India.
By auctioning his work, Hirst can expect a far greater share of the money raised.
The two-day sale set a record for an auction dedicated to one artist. Sotheby’s said it was 10 times the previous record set in 1993 for 88 works by Picasso.
The Telegraph offers a fascinating perspective on the record-breaking sale, suggesting that Hirst’s work is ‘impactful’ but lacking “any real visual ideas”.
Hirst has noticed you can get big sales without any real visual ideas. Just impact will do. Anything brightly coloured or tackily grim will keep the product brand going.
It’s the audience’s job to keep pretending this is the kind of thing that art’s always gone in for, and the promoter’s job to keep cheering. Artistic emotion in Rothko is grand, dignified and distanced. In Hirst it’s hysterical and effervescent.
For some reason the money people couldn’t do the necessary buoying-up for the world’s big banks, but they can do it for Hirst. And that’s impressive, but it doesn’t make these rapidly churned out objects any different to what they palpably are, which is empty.
The work’s bombastic pointlessness – its insulting meaning of “buy this” – is all too clear in paintings and sculptures that have a lot of monumental marble-gold-and-diamond bluster but little else.
The mood in the sales room was of anti-climax: the press in their scruffy scrum, the phone bidders earnestly lined up in front of a gigantic chrome cabinet full of cigarette butts, the main punters in their chairs looking glum and distracted, as if they weren’t really there.
It was clear from the first bids that the sale was going to be an immense success. If the show had bombed, it would have signalled not just that the financial world was in meltdown, but that other, deeper values were being revised.
In the end, though, there was something numbing about business as usual.