Hirstonomics: How Damien Hirst became a cash cow again

His reputation has taken a battering in recent years, but experts claim Hirst's work will one day be as durable as Picasso's, according to Adam Sherwin

It was the night that confirmed Damien Hirst as the art world's most powerful celebrity brand. Yet even as his audacious one-man Sotheby's sale raised a record £111 million, the news that Lehman Brothers had collapsed proved a prescient sign that Hirst's long-term value may similarly have been built on sand.

Within months, prices for Hirst's work had slumped and the reputation of Britain's leading conceptual artist began to take a battering.

But don't dispose of that dissected sheep in formaldehyde just yet. The 48-year-old's body of work will ultimately prove as durable as Picasso, according to a new report, compiled by art market experts.

Confidence in Hirst, who shot to fame in the 90s with the Young British Artists movement, recently fell to such a low that the critic Julian Spalding published a book titled Why You Ought to Sell Your Damien Hirst While You Can.

Russian oligarchs and Saudi royals had competed for the 223 works which went under the hammer at Hirst's Beautiful Inside My Head Forever sale at Sotheby's in September 2008, which raised a record amount for a single artist.

Since that giddy night, auction sales and the average price levels for Hirst's works have dropped back to 2005 levels. One in three of the 1,700 pieces offered at auction failed to sell at all in 2009.

Hirst has been accused of churning out, via a team of assistants, uninspired variations of his signature Spot Paintings. This week the Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry attacked Hirst's work as "hackneyed" and "tatty".

However a new report by ArtTactic, a market research body which compiles surveys for art institutions and collectors, argues that it would be premature to write Hirst off.

Comparing Hirst to Andy Warhol, whose works plummeted in value during the 90s, the report predicts that the market will "re-value" the British artist's output, which over future years should place him in the same high-value category to collectors as Picasso.

Hirst's 'Lullaby Spring' sold for $17.2m in 2007, the highest price ever paid for one of the artist's works at auction Hirst's 'Lullaby Spring' sold for $17.2m in 2007, the highest price ever paid for one of the artist's works at auction But if Hirst, whose wealth is estimated at £215 million, is to be rehabilitated, he needs to end the over-production of works which carry his name.

Questioning a "lack of inventory control", the report says: "ArtTactic has received a confirmation from Hirst's company, Science Ltd, that the total number of original works (paintings and sculpture) produced up until today is just under 6,000, with another 2,000 drawings."

This compares to the 95,000 works of art left by Andy Warhol after his death in 1987 and 50,000 produced by Picasso.

Hirst's most lucrative period occurred between 2005 and 2008, when he bypassed his dealers and took his work direct to auction at Sotheby's. But these have since resold for nearly 30 per cent less than their original purchase price.

'The Golden Calf' was auctioned off for $16,836,000 at Sotheby's in 2008 'The Golden Calf' was auctioned off for $16,836,000 at Sotheby's in 2008 Hirst's auction prices began to slump after his Beautiful Inside My Head Forever sale at Sotheby's in September 2008, which raised a single-artist record of £111 million. ArtTactic attributes the fall to a general cooling-off of auction sales in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse, which occurred on the day of the Hirst event.

Hirst split with Gagosian, the world's richest art gallery, last year, ending a 17-year partnership. But private sales of his work have continued to prosper. The White Cube gallery in London confirmed to the report's authors that its Hirst sales were in excess of $110 million in 2012, more than five times higher than the equivalent sales achieved at auction.

The report says: "Despite negative short-term sentiment, the market has since the downturn in 2009 remained confident about Damien Hirst's importance in 10 years' time. We believe the market has become over-pessimistic, and fails to see the wider importance and influence of Hirst's legacy."

It predicts: "The growing interest in art as an investment and art secured lending is likely to trigger further demand for Damien Hirst in the future. Increase in auction liquidity and price transparency would make Hirst an ideal candidate in terms of investment value, similar to what other prolific artists such as Picasso, Warhol and Calder are today."

Hirst's retrospective at Tate Modern last year, featuring a rotting cow's head and the Bristol-born artist's £50 million diamond-encrusted human skull, attracted 463,000 visitors, confirming that public interest in his work remains high.

'The Kingdom', a tiger shark in Formaldehyde, sold for $15,555,000 at Sotheby's in September 2008 'The Kingdom', a tiger shark in Formaldehyde, sold for $15,555,000 at Sotheby's in September 2008 However collectors are "already becoming more discerning in regard to the important periods and works by the artist" who has put his name to more than 1,000 spot paintings. ArtTactic questions where Hirst will ever produce ground-breaking new work to match his 90s pieces and concludes that it is from this period where collectors will find most value.

Jose Mugrabi, the world's largest private owner of Warhol works, said "today's market offers a great opportunity" to buy Hirst works. "The Andy Warhol market in the 1990s was terrible, people thought it was the end of the Warhol market," he said. "However, I saw this as a great opportunity and I became the biggest buyer of Warhol in this period. I believe the same will happen to the Damien Hirst market. He is one of the greatest artists of our time; there is no doubt about it."

The most expensive artwork sold by Hirst remains 'Lullaby Spring', which consists of thousands of hand-painted pills and fetched $17 million at Sotheby's in 2007.

ArtTactic warns that Hirst must find "a more prominent role" in the auction market once again, "otherwise he risks being left behind as a number of artists are knocking on the door." Gerhard Richter, Jeff Koons and Peter Doig are cited as contemporary artists who have enjoyed price appreciation during Hirst's slump.

The upbeat ArtTactic report counters Julian Spalding's book, which described Hirst's work as "the sub-prime of the art world" which would prove worthless.

The critic dismissed Hirst, saying: "The emperor has nothing on. When the penny drops that these are not art, it's all going to collapse."

Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London