Hirst bucks trend with record-breaking auction

Artist Damien Hirst bucked the economic trend today as his high profile auction of work continued in record-breaking style.

Bidding was brisk at Sotheby’s auction house in central London on the second day of the 'Beautiful Inside My Head Forever' auction.

A foal in formaldehyde in a steel and glass tank entitled 'The Dream' sold for £2.3m (€2.88m) this morning with a butterfly work of art entitled 'Reincarnated' fetching £1.6m (€2m), well in excess of a higher estimate of £700,000 (€878,422).

A Sotheby’s spokesman said: “It is early stages but every lot has sold thus far.”

A total of 167 lots are scheduled to go under the hammer today on the second day of the sale. Yesterday the sale set a new record for an auction of one artist’s work.

The £70.5m (€88.5m) total for the 54 lots sold yesterday broke the record set in 1993 for 88 works by Picasso.

The Picasso auction totalled US$20m (€14m) but Sotheby’s said the Hirst sale had already raised the equivalent of 127m (€89.1m) yesterday.

Hirst, 43, who has been criticised by some for using an army of assistants who help him create his work, has called the auction a "mini retrospective" and "probably the most amazing show I've put on''.

He is selling more than 220 new works directly through the auction, saving millions by cutting out dealers’ commission.

It is the first time an artist has sold a substantial volume of work directly and coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Freeze Exhibition, which launched the careers of Hirst and his contemporaries.

'The Golden Calf', one of the works, sold for £10.3m (€12.9m) yesterday, the highest price ever paid for a Hirst at auction.

'The Kingdom', a tiger shark in formaldehyde, went for more than £9.5m (€11.9m), far higher than the auction house’s estimate of between £4m (€5m) and £6m (€7.5m).

The success of the auction comes in the midst of economic gloom following the collapse of US investment giant Lehman Brothers.

Hirst said yesterday: “I think the market is bigger than anyone knows. I love art and this proves I’m not alone and the future looks great for everyone.”

Viscount Charles Dupplin, an art expert, congratulated Sotheby’s and Hirst on the sale. “It’s another landmark, an astounding day for the art market in a year that has seen many long-standing records demolished, despite the gloomy world economy,” he said.

But the Stuckist art movement, which promotes figurative art in opposition to conceptual art, issued a press release saying they were offering the shark for “only” £1m (€1.25m), a “huge saving” on those available for the Hirst.

Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckists, said: “I hope this will bring a bit of sanity into things, as it’s quite obvious that the art world has gone stark raving bonkers.”


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