Please Don’t Buy Hirst –

Please Don’t Buy Hirst –

One could be mistaken for thinking that the media attention and excitement surrounding the impending Damien Hirst auction at Sotheby’s would have had a positive impact on the auction house’s share price unless of course, like me, you were sceptical about this sale from the beginning. The drop in Sotheby’s share price over the last few weeks to the lowest it has been since 2006 is a sure sign that the market is concerned about the risk Sotheby’s has taken on by selling these works

Even though it shouldn’t have, the media attention and amount of emphasis that has been put on this auction has resulted in a situation where this particular auction is being regarded as an indicator of the overall health of the art market. The reasoning behind this is presumably that because of Damien Hirst’s popularity and fame people believe that if there is any artist whose work is most likely to sell at auction, Damien Hirst would be that artist. Therefore, should a sale of work by Damien Hirst not be a success the would be a presumption that the whole art market was experiencing a downturn because works by the artist who has been called, among other things, the most valuable living artist and the most expensive living artist. Even more important for Sotheby’s is the battering their reputation will receive if they fail to sell such apparently desirable works of art.

According to Hirst, Sotheby’s approached him about selling his work directly which seems to me like a case of greed induced opportunism on Sotheby’s part. Had the current market been less cautious, less quality driven and more impulse driven the likelihood of a successful sale would have been higher but in the current climate an auction where value and quality are sorely lacking is bound to face challenges.

I believe the chances of the sale going well are about the same as the chances of the sale flopping, in other words, it is very hard to tell. What I can say is that I believe that the long term outlook for the value of Hirst’s work is not very good which means my advice to anyone thinking about purchasing a Damien Hirst work is, don’t. There are far better works of art to spend your money on that were actually created by the artist whose name is on the work. If you must buy one of Damien Hirst’s works then I suggest you make it one of the formaldehyde works as they are the most iconic and most desirable works as well as being less common than his other works.

image: Sotheby’s share price as of 4:01 PM ET on Sep 12, 2008

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

6 Responses

  1. I’m afraid Nick the Global art community has made a god out of Hirst and I think it will go great for Hirst as he is a marketing Genius.

    Personally I think his work is shite and it it deserves to flop.

    Sotheby’s are just making this a advertising ploy as thr recession is hitting them hard too, that’s why they HAVE TO SCRAPE THE BARREL.

    My guess is Saatchi will no doubt buy some work back, who knows!

  2. So Hirst smashes through all predictions of failure and makes all the gloom mongers look a little silly. Good on him. It’s fantastic news for anyone involved in the art world and an amazing achievement given the economic background. Truly amazing.

    I can forgive you for advising small collectors to buy things other than Hirst, but you also look silly by failing to distinguish between an original spot painting and a printed edition. If you want people to take you seriously you can’t advise them that the definitions that the art market uses are wrong.

  3. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for the comment but before you accuse me of failing to distinguish between an original spot painting and a printed edition you need to maybe read the whole post which actually does state the differences between the painting and the printed edition which, in reality, are not actually that different. Secondly the term original is not a term that I would use to describe a Hirst spot painting and thirdly, the Hirst sale is not fantastic news for anyone involved in the art world because it just provides proof that people do not understand the meaning of value and are easily sucked in by clever marketing and media hype.

    Nicholas Forrest

    Nicholas Forrest

  4. Damn, one should have bought Southeby’s shares instead of Hirst then!
    I bet they go up now …

  5. Indeed you should have. According to Motley Fool, Sotheby’s stocks are a top stock to purchase at the moment.

    Nicholas Forrest

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