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
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

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.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect