Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bull Market for Hirst in Sotheby’s 2-Day Sale

thinks that this bold move by Damien Hirst is going to not only set a precedent but , redefine the Art market.Please enjoy this article written by Carol Vogel of the NYTimes!

Published: September 16, 2008
LONDON — It was as if Sotheby’s here was a little oasis far removed from the grim news of the financial world. In less than 24 hours, giant tanks of dead sharks, zebras and piglets submerged in formaldehyde; glass cabinets filled with medical supplies, cigarette butts or diamonds; paintings and drawings of everything from dots to skulls — 223 works all by the British artist Damien Hirst — were snapped up at a brisk clip by collectors from all parts of the globe.

“Ascended,” a Damien Hirst canvas filled with colorful butterflies, sold for $4 million.
By the sale’s end, on Tuesday afternoon, the entire auction brought a total of $200.7 million, more than the auction house’s high estimate of $177.6 million.

Sotheby’s said the total broke the record for a single-artist auction, set in 1993 when a Picasso sale with 88 works brought $20 million.

“We’re still appealing to a small percentage of the world’s population,” said Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in London. “These people are sophisticated and they still have budgets for art.”

It wasn’t only the work that made for a successful sale. Sotheby’s went to great lengths to market the event, devoting its entire New Bond Street home to showing the works as if they were part of a museum retrospective and keeping the viewing open until midnight on Saturday. In all, more than 21,000 people saw the offerings.

Sotheby’s experts also took some of the highlights on tour, to Bridgehampton, N.Y., and New Delhi, among other places, and posted videos of the work and the artist on YouTube, a first for the auction house. It was a first for an artist too: Mr. Hirst was bypassing his dealers — Gagosian Gallery, based in the United States, and White Cube in London — and taking his work straight to auction. He also spent time on marketing, inviting collectors to see his pieces over the last few months. Although few other artists could produce a body of work as large, it is expected that single works by artists may take the same route.

Officials at Sotheby’s said it was too early to identify most of the buyers, but Americans were noticeably absent. A few dealers were in the salesroom, but they were often outbid. Mr. Barker, who was the auctioneer for most of the sale, said he could see a lot of new faces in the room. In addition to collectors from the Middle East and Asia, Russians continued to support the art market.

“The Russian collectors at the turn of the century loved the avant-garde,” Mr. Barker said, referring to the 1890s. “It’s coming full circle.”

The top seller of the two-day event was “The Golden Calf,” a white bullock preserved in formaldehyde, with hoofs and horns made of 18-carat gold and a gold disc crowning the head. The work was estimated at $15.8 million to $23.6 million and drew three bidders. It went for $18.6 million to a buyer on the phone.

Another highlight was “Fragments of Paradise,” a stainless-steel and glass cabinet filled with manufactured diamonds that made $9.3 million on Monday, nearly three times its $2.9 million high estimate.

(Final prices include the commission paid to Sotheby’s: 25 percent of the first $20,000, 20 percent of the next $20,000 to $500,000 and 12 percent of the rest. Estimates do not reflect commissions.)

On Tuesday the salesroom was packed, a rarity for a daytime sale. Among the big sellers were “The Dream,” a “unicorn” that was actually a foal in a glass and steel tank of formaldehyde. It sold to a telephone bidder for $4.1 million, just above its $3.9 million low estimate.

Pretty images had many takers. “Ascended,” a canvas filled with colorful butterflies, attracted three telephone bidders. It ended up bringing $4 million, more than three times its $1.3 million high estimate. Another butterfly work, “Reincarnated,” had two bidders and went for $2.8 million, more than twice its $1.3 million estimate.

Throughout the sale works on paper brought high prices. “Beautiful Spinny Drawing” brought $148,807. It had been estimated at $29,700 to $39,500. Several colored-pencil drawings also did very well. “Beautiful Bullseye Drawing,” for instance, had been expected to sell for $29,700 to $39,500. Melanie Clore, Sotheby’s deputy chairman in Europe, took the winning bid for a telephone client who paid $53,883.

Some works only squeaked by. Although three people tried for “Pigs Might Fly,” a piglet with dove’s wings in a gold-plated case filled with formaldehyde, it was bought for $872,139; it had been estimated to bring $990,000 to $1.3 million.

More macabre works also sold for far below their estimates. “The Broken Dream,” a foal’s head floating in formaldehyde with a knife beside it, was expected to bring $1.1 million to $1.5 million. White Cube, owned by Jay Jopling, bought the work for $907,480.

Alberto Mugrabi, a New York dealer, sat through the two-day sale but was able to buy only two works, a spot painting and a drawing. He called the event a phenomenon.

“It’s a way to escape from reality,” he said. “And over time it could be a really good investment.”

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