Saturday, September 13, 2008

How many???

Damien Hirst is putting 223 new works up for auction at Sotheby’s. The significance of this is that new art is usually sold by dealers in galleries, and only when it has been around the block a few times does it turn up again in the auction rooms, to be resold for a profit. That’s the way it’s ‘supposed’ to work.

At one time, anything newer than five years old was sold almost exclusively through dealers. Recently, however, as the big auction houses began deriving more of their income from contemporary art, the dealers found themselves being squeezed. First, the dealers’ window went from five to two years. Now, with this sale, it has been banished altogether.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing to stop any artist anywhere selling their work direct through the auction houses. But when they do, bang goes the dealer’s 50%.

It sounds good to me.

I like the idea of not having a fixed price for my work but of people setting their own value on it. If someone wants a picture by me because it ‘does something for them’, then I want them to have it. And I want the amount they pay to reflect the value they put on it. An auction simply pushes that process along.

But what has astonished me about this whole Damien Hirst thing, is that everything in this sale has been made specially in the past two years. That’s a hell of a lot of work.

Hirst runs six studios, divided between London, Devon and Gloucestershire, and each of them has been working like the clappers to produce this much art in these sorts of sizes in this kind of timescale. Not only is the huge selection of offerings the largest exhibition Sotheby’s has ever put on, it forms the largest Damien Hirst show there has ever been.

The idea of having a studio and employing people appeals to my desire for connection, conversation and collaboration. It would also mean that I could generate a lot more ideas and activities, knowing that the resources were there to make them happen. If it was possible to do that without spending too much time managing the people and the processes, then it would be great.

Damien Hirst seems to have it figured out.

Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, new work by Damien Hirst, is on show daily at Sotheby’s, New Bond St, W1, until September 15; check times at

Interesting reflections, Peter. I love your idea of cutting out that middle man! :) What would be particularly great, though, is if Hirst let a large display space first and put on his own show, for the benefit of viewers, before going to auction. That could even drive up the desirability and therefore value of some of the pieces.
I agree, Andrea ... it does seem as though he's produced all this work simply to sell with most people not ever getting a chance to see it.
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