The Rules of the Art Market The Damien Hirst case
In 2008 Damien Hirst overturned the rules of the art market.
Let’s find out how….
Damien Hirst is the contemporary artist who for better or worse everyone knows..
Emerged in the ’80s among the Young British Artists, sponsored and brought to success by advertiser and collector Charles Saatchi, he is the author of the stuffed tiger shark entitled The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living sold for 12 million dollars as well as author of the human skull For the love of God covered by 8,601 diamonds produced for 14 million pounds and then sold to the vertiginous figure of 50 million pounds..
Damien Hirst is an artist clearly careful about the market, so as to intervene right after the catastrophic 15th and 16th September 2008 when the bankruptcy by Lehmann Brothers was declared.
The artist, in agreement with the Sotheby’s auction house, presented in two sales sessions about 300 works, bypassing his art dealer Jay Jopling and his representative gallery Gagosian.
The innovative scope of this auction entitled Beautiful Inside My Head Forever was to overturn completely the market roles, going even against the rules of it, giving the fact that the presence of auctioned works takes place only after these have passed into the primary market of the gallery sale. In the auction there were also new released artworks by Hirst’s studio and for this reason the collectors (including speculators of the art sector) certainly did not let them get away.
Dealers and gallery owners were “forced” to take part in the auction, considering that a negative result of the sales sessions would have undermined their conspicuous stock of works by Hirst and would have caused the distrust of collectors.
The outcome? It turned out to be blatantly positive with a £ 111 million sale, with almost all the works sold and no commission requested from Sotheby’s to Damien Hirst, ensuring for both of them the privilege of entering the history of art economics.
At this point you may be thinking “Here, Damien Hirst was smarter than everyone, getting around the rules of the market, his gallery owner and his dealer”. Well there is no doubt that Hirst, who was already rich and famous before the auction, has become even more by doing that.
Usually what happens is exactly the opposite: galleries, art dealers and collectors offer during the auction a selection of works by an artist, belonging to the secondary market, in order to maintain the value or increase it thanks to re-launches agreed while the auction is in progress.
Unfortunately for him, in the following years, the trade of his works on the market have decreased considerably, forcing his collectors not to resell the works as they where scared of seeing the paid price reduced considerably.
Damien Hirst in 2012 broke the relationship with Gagosian, setting things up only in 2016 after that since 2008 his works have been devalued by 70%.
Breaking the rules does not pay, considering the fact that the art market that lives on a delicate balance of roles, where all its protagonists contribute to create cultural and economic value for an artist and his works. Is therefore useless to play “smart” because the débâcle it’s always around the corner …