British artist Damien Hirst, who broke the mould by putting sharks in formaldehyde, has turned his attention to revolutionising the art market by selling his work direct at auction.
On Monday and Tuesday, Hirst will sell 223 works with an estimated value of £65-million ($116-million) at Sotheby’s auction house in London, bypassing the traditional route of the art gallery.
Sotheby’s says it is the first time in its 264-year history that an artist has sold their work direct to market, avoiding the commission galleries often charge, which can reach 50% of the sale price.
Buyers will find the auction house’s commission included in the price, and Hirst has promised to donate some of the profits to charity.
The artist said the idea for the revolutionary sale had come from Sotheby’s.
”They approached me and I think the art market is changing. At the end of the day I knew it would upset a lot of people and I quite liked that,” he told BBC television.
”The whole art market was set up in kind of Victorian times and it was like an old gentlemen’s club and it has not been changed for many, many years.”
Hirst (43) is already one of the best-selling modern artists in the world.
Last year he sold a platinum skull encrusted with 8 601 diamonds for £50-million, which is thought to be the world’s most expensive piece of contemporary art.
The tried-and-tested Hirst concepts make a comeback for the Sotheby’s sale.
Returning to the idea that made his name, Hirst has put a calf in a tank of formaldehyde, only this time the animal has hoofs and horns fashioned from solid gold and a gold disc on its head.
Animal lovers probably won’t be bidding, but the piece is expected to fetch between £8-million and £12-million.
The sale also contains a shark in a tank for old time’s sake, and a zebra and a piglet adorned with wings have been given the same treatment by Hirst and his 200-strong team.
There are also paintings which expand on the artist’s classic themes such as butterflies, cancer cells and pills and many examples of his spot paintings, some of which he says he will not produce again.
”I’m ending a lot of series,” Hirst said.
Some commentators have speculated that the show, entitled Beautiful Inside My Head Forever could break the hegemony of the galleries — although few artists have Hirst’s financial muscle — but others say he is taking a risk with a show which treads little new ground.
The organisers hope Russian and Arab buyers will ensure the show’s success and it seems almost certain that the huge fortune of the man once known as the enfant terrible of the art world will be further boosted.
His manager says Hirst owns between 30 and 40 houses and properties and divides his time between a farm in Devon, south-west England, and London, where he stays in a suite at Claridge’s, one of the capital’s most luxurious hotels.
When he gets bored of England, he decamps to his villa in Mexico. – AFP