22 Sep 2008

Global financial crisis but art appears to be doing well

(Nalini S Malaviya)

Amidst global financial crisis where Lehman brothers filed for bankruptcy and AIG hopes to tide over with a bridge loan, there has been world wide concern whether art will continue to attract investors. In this regard, all eyes were turned towards the Sotheby’s auction featuring an exclusive and a humungous body of works by artist Damien Hirst.

Damien Hirst, often hailed as one of the most successful living artists, is known for his conceptual art which some consider as bizarre. However in this sale, Hirst broke Picasso’s record and fetched a cool £70.5 million in the first round of the Sotheby’s auction. "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever," comprising of 223 works produced by Hirst in the last two years saw phenomenal results at the highly publicized auction. The day sale held the next day also fetched another £40.9 million making it a total of £111.4 million.
"The Golden Calf," a white bullock preserved in formaldehyde, with hoofs and horns made of 18-carat gold and a gold disc crowning the head went for £10.35 million.
The unusual success of Damien Hirst’s works reiterates that there appears to be a strong interest in art. Although, Hirst’s art that comprises of dead animals preserved in formaldehyde and dead butterflies pinned and painted upon has been highly controversial the success of the sale defies logic. There have been skeptics who have pointed out that the success of the auction can partly be attributed to media hype and clever marketing strategy, the results are there for all to see.

This particular auction has been significant, also for the fact that Hirst bypassed dealers and took his works directly to Sotheby’s. This means that commissions that normally go to a gallery or dealer would now go straight to the artist.
There has been growing concern over the future of art as an investment option with financial markets reeling, and while the Hirst sale may have been a landmark one, there is no guarantee that future auctions will be equally successful.
However, it does appear that in these uncertain financial times, collectors with deep pockets are likely to find good art at competitive prices.

(Published in Financial Times)
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