Hirst thirst rakes in 70 mn pounds at Sotheby's auction
By Venkata Vemuri
Indo-Asian News Service
London, Sep 16 (IANS) Monday saw global investment giant Lehmann
Brothers file for bankruptcy, but by night there wasn't even
a whiff of the credit crunch at Sotheby's in London where
a staggering 70-odd million pounds was spent in a matter of
minutes to snap up the works of artist Damien Hirst whose
works were recently exhibited in New Delhi to mixed reviews.
Records tumbled and the world woke up to a new style of auctioning
art as 56 lots were sold on the first day. Another 167 works
will go under the hammer Tuesday night, with bets on how far
beyond the billion mark would the total sale go.
The Bristol-born artist's The Golden Calf, a sculpture of
a bullock in formaldehyde, with hooves and horns cast in solid
18-carat gold, went under the hammer for a record 10.3 million
pounds. The previous auction record for a work by Hirst was
9.7 million pounds.
Hirst's creations beat their combined expected sale price
of 65 million pounds. The first day raked in 70.5 million
Hirst's decision to take his 223 works, completed in under
two years, straight to auction, bypassing the gallery owners
and dealers who normally take a hefty commission, was watched
closely by the art world amid concerns that money rather than
art will dominate the market from now on.
The profit from most of the works sold will go straight into
Hirst's pocket, because buyers' premiums are charged separately
and Sotheby's has waived its auction fees. It is the first
time an artist of Hirst's stature has bypassed his usual dealer
and gallery and sold his works directly to the public.
The event was strictly all-ticket and limited to 656 clients,
arguably making a mockery of Hirst's attempt to "democratize"
the sale of his artwork. But this was not just history in
the making, it was also theatrical spectacle. The sale room
in New Bond Street was filled to capacity, with the auction
relayed on video screens and auxiliary auctioneers on standby.
Less than five minutes into the sale,
the first lot exceeded its estimated price by 400,000
pounds. The first real high point came soon afterwards. Lot
five, a pickled tiger shark, a tiger shark in formaldehyde
called The Kingdom, had an estimate of 6m, but after
ten minutes of frenzied activity by two determined telephone
bidders, the hammer went down at 9.6 million pounds. The price
was a record for a work in formaldehyde (the previous was
1.8 million pounds)
Within half an hour of the sale starting, the bidders crammed
into four rooms had put another 14m into Hirst's bulging bank
account - for a mere eight artworks. Fragments Of Paradise,
made from stainless steel, glass and manufactured diamonds,
was estimated at 1-1.5 million pounds but sold for more than
three times that - just under 5.2 million pounds. Here
Today, Gone Tomorrow - a collection of fish and fish skeletons
in tanks of formaldehyde - sold for just under three million
pounds. The Sotheby's estimate was 2.5-3.5 million pounds.
After The Flood - featuring a dove in formaldehyde
- sold for just under 1.8 million, exceeding its top estimate
of 1.5 million pounds. Cheyenne Westphal, chairman of contemporary
art for Sotheby's in Europe, said the show was the biggest
exhibition of the 43-year-old Hirst's work to date. He told
The Times: "We wanted to show it as an exhibition
because although Damien has had lots of offers he has never
agreed to a major retrospective. He doesn't feel old enough."
Before the auction, 21,000 visitors turned up to see the show,
called Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, making it
the most-viewed pre-sale exhibition in London auction history.
Record numbers of auction catalogues were sold as memorabilia
for 50 pounds a time, rather than the usual 29 pounds.
As part of Hirst's effort to "democratize" art -
to allow non-auction-circuit art lovers to buy his works -
a lot of his works were exhibited in other parts of the world,
including New Delhi, the first time for any major pre-auction
exhibition in India.
On Saturday, a private party to mark the sale was attended
by Bono from U2, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, the actor-director
Kevin Spacey, and Daria Zhukova, the girlfriend of Chelsea
Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
What was Hirst doing while the auction was taking place? He
was probably playing snooker somewhere in Camden, a Sotheby's
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