A formaldehyde frenzy as buyers snap up Hirst works

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Damien Hirst's audacious plot to take his creations straight to auction paid off last night as he set a new personal record of £10.3m for one artwork in the first part of a two-part sale. The astounding £70.5m total raised at Sotheby's in London exceeded all expectations. The previous auction record for a work by Hirst was £9.7m.

The Bristol-born artist's The Golden Calf, a sculpture of a bullock in formaldehyde, with hooves and horns cast in solid 18-carat gold, went under the hammer for a record £10.3m. Another star lot, a tiger shark in formaldehyde called The Kingdom, made £9.6m – more than £3m above its expected price.

Hirst's decision to take 223 works straight to auction, bypassing the gallery owners and dealers who normally take a hefty commission, was watched closely by the art world and set a precedent for artists seeking to maximise their profits.

On the opening night of the two-day sale, Hirst's creations beat their combined expected sale price of £65m. The auctions, the second of which is tonight, were forecast to rake in £98m but, after last night's performance, experts are predicting a far better overall result.

The profit from most of the works sold will go straight into Hirst's pocket, because buyers' premiums are charged separately and Sotheby's has waived its auction fees. It is the first time an artist of Hirst's stature has bypassed his usual dealer and gallery and sold his works directly to the public.

All of yesterday's 56 lots were sold and 167 more will go under the hammer tonight. A few days ago, Hirst confessed to having jitters about his big gamble, saying: "I imagine it going: 'Lot nine – no bids. Lot 10 – still no bids.'"

He need not have worried. Less than five minutes into the sale, the first lot exceeded its estimated price by £400,000. The first real high point came soon afterwards.

Lot five, a pickled tiger shark, had an estimate of £6m, but after ten minutes of frenzied activity by two determined telephone bidders, the hammer went down at £9.6m. The price was a record for a work in formaldehyde (the previous was £1.8m) that generated a ripple of applause in the auction room.

Within half an hour of the sale starting, the bidders crammed into four rooms had put another £14m into Hirst's bulging bank account – for a mere eight artworks.

The event was strictly all-ticket and limited to 656 clients, arguably making a mockery of Hirst's attempt to "democratise" the sale of his artwork. But this was not just history in the making, it was also theatrical spectacle. The sale room in New Bond Street was filled to capacity, with the auction relayed on video screens and auxiliary auctioneers on standby.

Before the auction, 21,000 visitors turned up to see the show, called "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever", making it the most-viewed pre-sale exhibition in London auction history. Record numbers of auction catalogues were sold as memorabilia for £50 a time, rather than the usual £29.

The excitement in the sale room proved that Hirst's maverick attempt to bring his wares directly to the market had captured the imagination of an audience far bigger than the usual art-collecting crowd, with rock stars, Wall Street traders and the general public keen to share in a moment of history.

On Saturday, a private party to mark the sale was attended by Bono from U2, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, the actor-director Kevin Spacey, and Daria Zhukova, the girlfriend of Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

Cheyenne Westphal, chairman of contemporary art for Sotheby's in Europe, said the show was the biggest exhibition of the 43-year-old Hirst's work to date. He added: "We wanted to show it as an exhibition because although Damien has had lots of offers he has never agreed to a major retrospective. He doesn't feel old enough."

Hirst was reported to have been nervous about the outcome, not least because Sotheby's saw its share price fall by 8 per cent last Thursday, although it recovered the next day. His anxiety was compounded by fears that the sale might flop because he had saturated his market.

But Hirst has worked hard to establish his commercial might in the auction room. Last year, a 10ft-wide stainless steel medicine chest – filled with coloured tablets and called Lullaby Spring – was sold for £9.7m, making him the world's most expensive living artist at the time.

This was followed by his (RED) charity auction, which broke records and must surely have given Hirst more confidence in the unquenched demand for his work.

Oliver Barker, senior specialist in contemporary art at Sotheby's, said the auction was an "experiment that is breaking new ground", adding that many of the works in the auction were small paintings that were affordable to many.

"From the outset, Damien wanted to democratise this sale so that everybody could be involved," he said yesterday.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
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.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?