In a very confusing article Melanie Gerlis states for The Art Newspaper that Damien Hirst’s prices have dropped because of his ‘great auction at Sotheby’s (in 2008 called ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’). As we all know, that was the moment when the artist decided to bypass the two heavyweight galleries in order to go straight to the buyer. That time, The Art Newspaper wrote: ‘the final frontier protecting the contemporary art galleries from the relentless encroachment of the auction houses has been emphatically breached’ (July/August 2008, p.31).
It is also a well known fact that that auction gave Hirst the benefit of £96M of the sale’s total £111M proceeds (the remainder went to Sotheby’s). Had he gone through his galleries he would given them a greater share of the sale price (galleries take, on average, 50% commission in the primary market, although a superstar artist usually negotiate this down). The primary market was no longer a no-go area.
Then she spends three quarters of the article showing how auction houses have expanded into the primary market. Christie’s by taking over Haunch of Venison, Sotheby’s and its S2 in NYC and the charity events there that area a coveted way of advancing onto the primary marktet. So after all this, Melanie Gerlis she links Damien Hirst’s price drop of an average 30% to the fact that he did not do exactly what his galleries asking to do which was….to overproduce?
In 2008, ‘Underworld’ sold for €241,250 in the ‘Beautiful’ auction, but last year it passed unsold with an estimate of £120K to £180K. Then Gerlis tell us that his Tate show and the world tour of his dots were not enough ‘success’ to stop Gagosian and Hirst from separating and says: ‘It is fortunate for Hirst that White Cube, the gallery he was with from the outset and that helped to make and manage his career, has stood by him. Artists, tke note: selling is not the same that representing’.
I think this article is wrong for it tries to deter any artist from even thinking about not paying the galleries’ overheads which I think are the cause for the overproduction that caused Damien Hirst’s failure. This has also been the case with all Lisson gallery artist. I just sold a piece by Julian Opie at half the price I purchased it and what to say about Angela de la Cruz. It takes two to tango and the blame here lies with the artists and also with those that are supposed to take care of their career market-wise. Just a thought.
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