A Shark’s Tale

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Damien Hirst’s pickled shark, formally known as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, has been presented as a three year loan by its owner, the hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen, to no less a grand lady than the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

And to think, this is the same Met whose trustees used to be touchy —granted, it was long ago — about admitting Picassos into the collection.

Anyway, a post script. In his piece for Bloomberg News that I’ve linked to above, Martin Gayford notes that the same Damien Hirst is asking 50 million pounds — $100 million — for his new diamond encrusted skull. He goes on to describe Hirst as….

“…a contemporary artist, still in early middle age, whose works now command higher prices than those of Raphael and Velazquez….At a recent auction in London, a Velazquez went for a mere 8.4 million pounds and a Raphael for 18 million pounds.

Command? If by that Gayford means gets, then he’s making the same mistake I’ve noticed some other writers making when they discuss the Hirst skull. He’s treating the thing as though its $100 million asking price has already been paid. Maybe eventually it will be. There’s no shortage of persuadable zillionaires out there. But for now that price is just a price tag, a shrewd publicity stunt, and one that seems to be paying off.

In which case, when I put my old Honda on the market, I think I’ll ask $40 million. That way it’ll command more than a Raphael. But hey, it’s a lot newer. And what Raphael comes with air bags?