Arts & Culture: It is the oddity that is a commodity! What else could be said after an art auction made up of pieces consisting animal carcasses and assorted garbage mixed with precious metals and gemstones sells for more than $200 million? The proof is in the numbers. According to Sotheby's press release, final sales resulting from Damien Hirst's Beautiful Inside My Head Forever auction were $200.75 million.
A record number of visitors, more than 21,000 people, attended the 11-day pre-sale viewings, and more than 4,500 attendees came through the turnstiles in just one day for a look-see. All 13 galleries at Sotheby's Bond Street location were required to handle the action of this auction, a first in Sotheby's 264-year history.
The event, which was Hirst's largest exhibition of works ever staged, also was the first-ever auction dedicated to the work of a single living artist. The final tally turned out to be more than twice the amount originally predicted by industry experts. Four pieces sold for more than $5 million, and 48 works sold for more than $1 million. Only three lots remained unsold at the last tap of the gavel, marking a sales-to-goods-auctioned ratio of 98.5 percent.
The Golden Calf, an embalmed calf made with 18 carat gold, glass, gold-plated steel, and formaldehyde solution with Carrara marble plinth, sold for the highest amount at more than $18.6 million. The Kingdom, a preserved tiger shark augmented by glass, steel, silicone, and formaldehyde solution with steel plinth, sold for approximately $17.2 million. Fragments of Paradise, which was the only one of the top four sans a preserved carcass of some sort, went for more than $5.3 million, and Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, consisting of fish, fish skeletons, formaldehyde solution, netted more than $5.3 million. The "four tops" of the auction sold for a combined total in excess of $50.4 million.
The registered bidders for the sale included many first-timers and newcomers to Sotheby's, as 16 percent of the total were new to Sotheby's, and 35 percent were new to its contemporary art department. Although many have criticize the assembly-line rollout of Hirst's renderings, as the artist does employ numerous artistic employees to complete his work, the number of folk interested in his work is staggering.
"I think the market is bigger than anyone knows. I love art and this proves I'm not alone and the future looks great for everyone!" said Damien Hurst at the conclusion of the Beautiful Inside My Head Forever auction.
While beauty may be in the eye of the holder, owners of art by Damien Hirst are holders of bona fide appreciating assets. Somewhere the spirit of Andy Warhol is either smiling or smirking.
For LxM James Rothaar
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