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“Larry said, ‘It sounds like bad business to me. "
September 11, 2010 1:09 PM   Subscribe

How the Bad Boy of Brit-Art Grew Rich at the Expense of His Investors From the Economist: IN 2008 just over $270m-worth of art by Damien Hirst was sold at auction, a world record for a living artist. By 2009 Mr Hirst’s annual auction sales had shrunk by 93%—to $19m—and the 2010 total is likely to be even lower. (The average auction price for a Hirst work in 2008 was $831,000. So far in 2010 it is down to $136,000, a sum that does not even take into account the many lots that failed to find buyers.)
posted by R. Mutt (58 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
LOLARTLOVERS!
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:29 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


More like LOLCOMMODITIESTRADERS.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2010 [19 favorites]


Good for him, sounds like he learned how to play the game to his advantage.

I just hope he's smart enough to put some of that cash aside for when the collectors move onto the next guy putting sheep in formaldehyde.
posted by madajb at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2010 [7 favorites]




"The goal of making the primary works more expensive may benefit Mr Hirst’s personal income in the short-term, but it makes no sense from the perspective of his market. Part of the reason that art costs more than wallpaper is the expectation that it might appreciate in value. Flooding the market with new work is like debasing the coinage, a strategy used from Nero to the Weimar Republic with disastrous consequences. If Mr Hirst were managing a quoted company, he would be unable to enrich himself at the expense of his investors in quite the same way. But Mr Hirst is an artist and, in Western countries, artists are valued as rule-breaking rogues."


The Economist really doesn't make any sense here. What difference does it make to Hirst what the secondary market if he doesn't get a penny of it? He saw that he was leaving cash on the table and used his leverage to get the maximum value out of his work. The people who lost out were the middle-men, collectors, and value-investors...

The only way it would affect him is if it would de-value his future first run sales; which appear to be just fine. Really it seems like he priced and timed all of his collections perfectly. Cash out while the market still thinks it's hot
posted by stratastar at 1:32 PM on September 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


More like LOLCOMMODITIESTRADERS.

Exactly. These guys are not "investors" in Damien Hirst. The analogy to Hirst as the CEO of a public company enriching himself at the expense of stockholders is inapt. Much more like the CEO of a gold mine enriching himself at the expense of the people who bought gold before you started selling your reserves.
posted by grouse at 1:35 PM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


So many art posts. Is it The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living Week or something?
posted by oulipian at 1:36 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yup, not feeling bad for the investors here. Hirst gambled on mega-wealthy art investors being idiots with no taste, and surprise! he was right.
posted by Dr. Send at 1:36 PM on September 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


Isn't all the investors have to do is hang on to the stuff for a bit? they aren't house flippers and they'd be okay flogging it at some point in the future when the market isn't full of Hirst stuff. He's got to die at some point, that'll help.
posted by shinybaum at 1:41 PM on September 11, 2010


Hirst gambled on mega-wealthy art investors being idiots with no taste, and surprise! he was right.

I wonder how much his stuff would go up in value were he to suddenly have a nasty fatal accident.
posted by philip-random at 1:43 PM on September 11, 2010


Let me know when For The Love Of God goes down to five bucks. I found a five in my pocket yesterday and it's either buy a burrito or a diamond-encrusted skull.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:48 PM on September 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've always hated Damien Hirst but I have to admit that royally screwing art speculators is a damn fine work of performance art. Meanwhile, that pencil that one graffiti kid stole from him is probably only worth like 50 or 60 thousand dollars now.
posted by nanojath at 1:49 PM on September 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


He's got to die at some point, that'll help.

I wonder how much his stuff would go up in value were he to suddenly have a nasty fatal accident.

I just want to know what his will has planned for his corpse. It would be a total cop-out if it doesn't involve public display. Or open bidding.
posted by clorox at 1:58 PM on September 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Anytime I hear that celebrity's name I think of Robert Hughes' BBC documentary The Mona Lisa Curse. Watch it.
posted by inoculatedcities at 2:00 PM on September 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


Ah, yes. Factory Art, Production Line Art and Art Fabrication live on!
"Yet they have not invested in Mr Hirst’s latest line of Francis Bacon-inspired skull paintings, saying that they are 'not visually continuous with the old work, which we find more beautiful and relevant.' Unlike most of the work, which is made by teams of other people, the artist actually paints these himself."
All in the tradition of Andy Warhol, Mark Kostabi and Jeff Koons (as profiled in the article).

Related:
Con Artist: The Story of Mark Kostabi.

Thomas Kinkade: Profit of Light.
posted by ericb at 2:00 PM on September 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


This article says all you need to know about the type of people who become artists and the type of people who financially speculate on Art. Good on Hirst to take advantage of the years of "pumping" by dealers (who made many more millions than he and other artists ever did) by turning around and then "dumping" by flooding the market with new work. The quality of an artist's work shouldn't be defined solely by the auction price of the work. Too many dealers have forgotten that.

I especially get a kick out of the fact that there is now a negative reassessment of Hirst's work by the same people who used to tout him because he's cut them out financially. Maybe they were selling a bogus bag of goods all along in the first place.
posted by KingEdRa at 2:00 PM on September 11, 2010


So many art posts. Is it The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living Week or something?

You know, not that long ago, I would have been on the side of the shark-haters. But recently I got to see that thing in person, and holy hell is it impressive. I mean, really stunning, in a way that absolutely does not come across in photos. My friends had to pull me away. If I'd been alone I would have stood there and stared for a long, long time.

I don't know if it's "art," and I guess what I'm saying is I don't care if it's "art." I'm glad someone made it, and I'm glad someone else bought it and lent it to the Met, because the whole experience was awfully interesting for me. If I had Steven Cohen's money — ten billion dollars, according to Wikipedia — I'd be happy to spend a fraction of a percent of it on something that intense.

On the other hand, complaining about Hirst flooding the market seems awfully tacky. The idea that he's got some sort of fiduciary duty to his investors fans customers whatever is just bizarre. And that too is independent of whether you call his shit "art" or not. It would be just as tacky, after all, for the Museum of Natural History to be like "Fuck you, paleontologists! Quit flooding the market with cheap T-Rexes!" or for Apple customers to get all "Fuck you, Steve Jobs! Quit lowering the prices on old computers when you bring out new ones!" Nobody, artist or not, has a responsibility to prop up the resale value of the shit that they make.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:05 PM on September 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


STARVING ARTIST SALE. THIS WEEKEND ONLY!!! PURCHASE FUTURE CLASSICS!!! -- Holiday Inn, Woburn, MA (intersection of I-95 and Rte. 38). Saturday and Sunday. 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. DON'T MISS IT!!!
posted by ericb at 2:06 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Artist is to collector as chimp is to frog?
posted by chavenet at 2:08 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Damien Hirst is very smart.

He turned himself into a brand, through his personality, his quotes, his stunts, and his art. He has about 5 major lines - the spin paintings, the dots, the butterflies, the pharmaceutical stuff, and now the skulls, and in each case he produces items at differnt price levels so that lots of different people can buy into it.

I feel no sympathy for the speculators and the dealers. He had them over a barrel and they knew if, but they still had to buy.

& now, apparently, he spends lots of the money on other art, like a large collection of Banksys.
posted by DanCall at 2:22 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hirst owes his cool to being pushed by Saachi, and now it's out of fashion. What a surprise.

He's still looking for a buyer for this, if anybody is interested...
posted by Thoth at 2:46 PM on September 11, 2010


Hey, who else has art on Mars? (well, maybe nit in one piece)
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on September 11, 2010


His mother, Mary, was a lapsed Catholic, who worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau and says she lost control of him when he was young. He was arrested on two occasions for shoplifting. However, Hirst sees her as someone who would not tolerate rebellion: she cut up his bondage trousers and heated one of his Sex Pistols vinyl records on the cooker to turn it into a fruit bowl(or a plant pot).

Love that detail about his early life.

He seems to be able to surf some sort of nihilistic zeitgeist of the art world that makes no sense to me. Art for pathological narcissist coke heads?
posted by nickyskye at 2:54 PM on September 11, 2010


I'm with you nebulawindphone. When I first saw the shark I found it just amazing.

I feel that when hirst is bad he's terrible (the new paintings) but when he's good he's brilliant.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:00 PM on September 11, 2010


So, my take away from this is that the investors are pissed off that Hirst made some money for himself? Holy Andy! Holy Koons! I mean, I've seen some of his stuff that I appreciate and some that I don't. I think Eli Broad has a ton of it, too.

But I don't at all feel sad that the artist got his in this life rather than the next.
posted by beelzbubba at 3:05 PM on September 11, 2010


Kind of reminds me of The Art Of Failure (flash website), about Chuck Conelly. Although Conelly found his career tanking because he was an asshole. Or maybe they're not that different after all.

(It's really a documentary worth watching.)
posted by hippybear at 3:09 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I didn't find a good gallery of his "Francis Bacon-inspired skull paintings," but what I saw wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. They weren't bad exactly.

(Then I realized that he must mean Francis Bacon the artist, not the philosopher. That makes more sense, now.)
posted by oddman at 3:11 PM on September 11, 2010


A comic strip I did a while ago seems appropriate: Damien Hirst is a mountebank!
posted by COBRA! at 3:24 PM on September 11, 2010


Eponysterical.
posted by Electric Dragon at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much his stuff would go up in value were he to suddenly have a nasty fatal accident.

I don't like the guy much, but I hope none of his buyers marks is thinking along the same lines right now..
posted by Skeptic at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2010


KingEdRa: This article says all you need to know about the type of people who become artists

This is like saying that watching Citizen Kane shows you all you need to know about the type of people who become journalists.
posted by oulipian at 3:29 PM on September 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder if Hirst and Koons ever just get together and sit around lighting joints with hundred dollar bills and laughing their asses off. If not they should consider it.
posted by MikeMc at 3:34 PM on September 11, 2010


K Foundation did it first.
posted by Artw at 4:06 PM on September 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ah, yes. Factory Art, Production Line Art and Art Fabrication live on!

It's been "living" since the 15th century

All in the tradition of Andy Warhol, Mark Kostabi and Jeff Koons (as profiled in the article).

It was the methodology of Raphael, Rubens and dates from before their time. It is a well established tradition in art. Yes, even those rectangular dusty old paintings that hang in museums under one author's name.
posted by fire&wings at 4:21 PM on September 11, 2010


isnt this exactly what happened with the likes of Schnabel and Stella?
posted by liza at 5:01 PM on September 11, 2010


COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL ART IS BORING
posted by Nelson at 5:21 PM on September 11, 2010


Miuccia Prada, an Italian designer and longstanding Hirst collector, for example, spent £6.3m acquiring a trio of Mr Hirst’s trademark animals in formaldehyde: “The Black Sheep with the Golden Horn”, “False Idol” (a calf), and “The Dream” (a foal made to look like a unicorn). “I think it was an incredible conceptual gesture, not a sale,” she says.
What's the concept? "I'm rich biatch!?"

Anyway, calling these people 'investors' is totally disingenuous. They are buying finished works. And it's unlikely that they are even marketed as actually investments: it would be completely gauche and turn off the clients, who want to believe they are supporting culture and showing off their wealth. (although probably hope to flip the works later)

I think the "art world", where these paintings sell for millions is a little absurd. It's like baseball card collecting for multimillionaires.

---

That said, I'm kind of amazed at how tacky some of this stuff is. The diamond covered skull, Hirst's "hanging heart". That's just tacky shit. The kind of stuff you'd see being sold on QVC at smaller scale and different materials. (i.e. a bedazzled skull instead of diamonds, and a smaller hanging heart on a stand)
posted by delmoi at 5:38 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should I care if art investors take a bath? It's not snark - it's a real question. Does it affect real working artists?

If we look past the current and recent megastars of the art market, do crazily high prices help those lower down the foodchain? Or do they suck all the oxygen out of the room?
posted by Steakfrites at 5:55 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


do crazily high prices help those lower down the foodchain?

On a purely practical level, it pays the assistants' salary. The young Brice Marden was paid by Rauschenberg. Robert Gober was paid by Elizabeth Murray....
posted by R. Mutt at 6:22 PM on September 11, 2010


Much of his stuff has a kind of "this is art?" quality to it, but those butterfly murals are amazing. I can completely understand why that's the part of the market rebounding. Beautiful and macabre at the same time.
posted by maryr at 7:26 PM on September 11, 2010


Am I the only one who thinks maybe what these art collectors all really need is a bailout?

Guys? Guys. C'mon. Bailout? Anyone?
posted by incessant at 8:28 PM on September 11, 2010


Am I the only one who thinks maybe what these art collectors all really need is a bailout?

Guys? Guys. C'mon. Bailout? Anyone?


Oh sure, the rich guy buying diamond covered skulls gets a bailout, but the average Joe who is upside-down in velvet Elvises* can't get a dime.

Typical.

* Elvii?
posted by madajb at 8:36 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


well that horrible skull with diamonds on it seems like a fitting work in his timeline now doesnt it
posted by lslelel at 8:55 PM on September 11, 2010


Elvices.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:04 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Elvises.
posted by no mind at 11:24 PM on September 11, 2010


Elvi?
posted by The Shiny Thing at 12:11 AM on September 12, 2010


On a serious note: a gallery here in Singapore has just put up a Hirst dot painting for sale. (It's the Opera Gallery in Ion Orchard if you're in the area - well worth a look just for curiosity's sake.)

It's sort of nice, I guess. Bright; colourful; it'd definitely look good on your wall. But it's seven hundred thousand dollars.

I can't wrap my head around the sort of mentality that would think this was a buy.
posted by The Shiny Thing at 12:18 AM on September 12, 2010


Bad boy of Art...posted by R. Mutt...I am having a Marcel Duchamp moment. On preview Electric Dragon beat me to it. dada we go.
posted by adamvasco at 12:34 AM on September 12, 2010


Oulipian. I wasn't trying to denigrate Hirst. I was trying to point out the difference between Artists and Art Dealers. Bad writing on my part. I was trying to illustrate the different attitude that Artists and those in the "Art Business" have towards Art. Damian Hirst makes his Art because that's what he's called to do in life-- his art's "worthiness" as art is independent of any financial value assigned to it. Art Dealers like Larry Gagosian (and the other financial speculators) view the "worthiness" of art as based on maximizing the financial equity that can be derived from selling or owning the art over and above what they paid for it.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:35 AM on September 12, 2010


More like LOLCOMMODITIESTRADERS.

Heh
posted by Dumsnill at 1:10 AM on September 12, 2010


do crazily high prices help those lower down the foodchain?

There are two different art markets. The split used to be around $10,000, not sure where it is now. Below that, people buy art because they like it. Above the line, even for the rich, there are art investment consultants, the appreciation and resale of the artist's other work is established, the documentation for previous sales and, particularly, resales are examined, the archival nature of the materials are determined, etc. It's not all that different from selecting a stock.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:56 AM on September 12, 2010


Damian Hirst makes his Art because that's what he's called to do in life-- his art's "worthiness" as art is independent of any financial value assigned to it.

Hirst is as much a speculator as the people who pay millions for his stuff -- they're betting that the value of crazy crap with a proper pedigree will go up, and he's betting that people are dumb enough to believe that the value of crazy crap with a proper pedigree will always have enough money. You might call it a grand form of performance art or commentary on the line between finance and art or whatever else a DFA will get you these days, but let's face it: he cracked the code, cleared the low bar of necessary talent and had the sheer willpower and stones to do what even Andy Warhol was too embarrassed to try.
posted by Etrigan at 7:08 AM on September 12, 2010


Elva, surely.
posted by Sutekh at 8:11 AM on September 12, 2010


I'm kind of amazed at how tacky some of this stuff is. The diamond covered skull, Hirst's "hanging heart". That's just tacky shit.

Isn't that kind of the point of those pieces?
posted by malthas at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2010


You know, not that long ago, I would have been on the side of the shark-haters. But recently I got to see that thing in person, and holy hell is it impressive.

I can only echo what nebulawindphone said.

In fact, I just saw a Hirst exhibition yesterday, passing through Monaco. They had the formaldehyded(?) shark, the sheep cut into two pieces, the butterflies, the colored diamonds in the metal cases; in fact, it sounds pretty much like collection by that one collector mentioned in the article, and maybe it is. The stuff is on display on the ground floor of the aquarium (museum of oceanograpy). In fact, I went there primarily so that my 9-year-old can look at the fishes and we got Damien Hirst as a bonus, so to say.

Oh, it's definitely art, allright. You might can argue about the diamonds, but the shark is stunning. Sure, it may be all commercialized, and maybe some of the items even have a whiff of that to them, but that shouldn't keep you from checking out that stuff yourself. It's worth it.
posted by sour cream at 1:14 PM on September 12, 2010


ohmigod those butterfly pieces must be amazing in person.

I've been prone to sneer at Hirst's work but I've been thinking about abstraction and minimalism again, due to my muse insisting I do some more work that incorporates Op techniques.

And as I seem to do every time I read an article about Hirst, I'm analyzing his methods of turning his work into money and wondering how I could do it myself. And whether it's possible to do that and still remain true to what I need to draw...
posted by egypturnash at 2:07 PM on September 12, 2010


More like LOLCOMMODITIESTRADERS.

Yeah, I don't know. Who determines the value of art? Note:
Soon after breaking the news to Larry Gagosian, the world’s leading dealer, Mr Dunphy recalled their conversation: “Larry said, ‘It sounds like bad business to me. It’ll be confusing to collectors. Why do you need to do this? We could continue in the old way’.”
...
Many art-world insiders saw the sale as an artistic event.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:53 PM on September 12, 2010


This is art.
posted by mendel at 4:59 PM on September 12, 2010


The quality of an artist's work shouldn't be defined solely by the auction price of the work.

.
posted by No Robots at 8:48 PM on September 12, 2010


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