Damien Hirst: The Money Store

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The first night of Hirst’s two-day Sotheby’s auction went pretty well for him, with hammer prices — meaning the final bids — coming in just short of Sotheby’s high end estimate for the sale. Then by tossing in the additional amounts paid to the house as the buyer’s premium, Sotheby’s was able to report a total sale of 70.5 million pounds ($127.2 million). The second day sales — there are two of them today — may actually turn out to be the acid test, since they include many of the lower priced lots that were supposed to attract new buyers into Hirst’s market.

And at this morning’s sale of 80 works, which just concluded, things still went very much Hirst’s way. Sotheby’s reports a result of 24.2 million pounds — a total that also reflects the buyer’s premium. Butterfly paintings and medicine cabinets repeatedly sold for amounts above the high end of their pre-sale estimates, sometimes well above. Glass vitrine pieces went for prices within the estimates — even unicorns didn’t go for more — though a pair containing winged bull hearts pierced by a sword again went for well above. And a number of insipid spin paintings sold just below the estimated low end. Markets may plummet but butterflies just keep floating upward. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

UPDATE: The second of the two Tuesday sales also outperformed, bringing in 16.6 million pounds, including the premiums paid to the auction house by the buyer. For the three sales over two days that’s a total of about 111.3 million pounds, of which Hirst walks away with about 95 million, minus whatever costs of the sale — security, re-fitting the exhibiton space, publishing the catalogue — that he agreed to cover. Interestingly, one of the heaviest bidders was reported to be Jay Jopling, Hirst’s London dealer, who may have needed to support Hirst’s prices because he has a backlog of Hirst’s work that he needs to get rid of himself.

How long will it be before the Murakami auction? Just asking.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of art to be seen in London this week. I’ll think I’ll go look at some now.