In the midst of a recession, there is no shortage of cash flow in the contemporary art world. With Damien Hirst’s major group of works entitled, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever coming up at auction, September 15 -16 at Sotheby’s London, auction estimates, including 223 lots are anticipated to exceed $121 million. His previous Pharmacy auction at Sotheby’s in November 2007 resulted in just over $20 million in sales, exceeding the initial estimate of $4 million. The monumental centerpiece of the upcoming sale entitled, The Golden Calf alone is estimated to be in the $15-22 million range. Will Hirst reclaim the world sale record for an individual artwork by a living artist? Lucien Freud (the grandson of the late Sigmund Freud) currently has the record set at $33.6 million for his painting, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping. The art world is watching to see if Hirst will up the ante with The Golden Calf.
Essentially, contemporary art is cutting edge. Conceptually it stirs up norms or may adhere to them in the most patronizing way. Either way, it gets the wheels turning. Fiscally, it is often times too expensive and risky of an investment for the average fine art collector, leaving the playing field open to Fortune Global 500 corporations and billionaire art collectors. Part of the lure of Damien Hirst is that he is essentially a brand from embalmed and encased animals on the high end, fine art auction/gallery level to jeans and poster prints that flirt with the less fortunate art appreciators and aspiring collectors. Hirst has created such a name for himself that he not only has the attention of current pop culture but every current reputable art forum perceives him as being one of the most powerful and influential artists on the contemporary art market if not history.
Here’s a brief recap of previous record sale holders:
Lucian Freud: $33.6 million (Christie's New York)
Lucian Freud’s painting entitled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, depicting Sue Tilley, a London Jobcentre Supervisor earned $33.6 million at Christie’s auction in Manhattan back in May 2008, setting a world sale record for an individual piece by any living artist. According to the London Times, Roman Abramovich, Russian tycoon and owner of the British Chelsea football club, bought not only Freud’s piece but an $86 million painting by the late Francis Bacon entitled Triptych.
Jeff Koons: $23.6 million (Sotheby's New York)
Jeff Koons’s Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold), sold for $23.6 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2007 to Larry Gagosian of the Gagosian Gallery, one of the most prominent dealers in the United States.
Damien Hirst: $19.1 million (Sotheby's London)
Damien Hirst’s Lullaby Spring pill box sold for $19.1 million at Sotheby’s London in June 2007 to an anonymous bidder. Many of Hirst’s most valuable pieces have been sold by galleries. Art market analysts have observed that the Hirst’s saleroom prices have been a good indicator of his demand on the market, resulting in a boost in auction estimates and results for the two biggest auction houses (Sotheby’s and Christie’s).
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