Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst could be among the first contemporary artists whose works lose significant value after death, a leading art sales expert has said.
Philip Hook, a senior specialist in Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s, told the Cheltenham Literature festival that marketing had helped inflate those artists’ prices.
He said that “inevitably there is a danger that the bubble will burst” when the PR buzz stopped.
“An artist who simply is very good at playing the market and is good at marketing himself, he is the most in danger of [his art] suffering when he dies," he said. "They will, of course, be found out by dying because they won’t be able to market themselves any longer.
“Those works that are less aggressively presented to the public will last.”
Hook joked: “God, I’ve got to be careful. I’m going to collapse the entire contemporary art market,” and stressed his views weren’t always shared by his Sotheby’s colleagues.
He also spoke of one Emin work, a neon sign entitled Is Legal Sex Anal?, which led to an embarrassing situation when a female member of the Royal Family visited Sotheby’s.
After pointing out Emin’s work, she asked Hook to read the sign as she didn’t have her glasses on.
“I had to say, ‘Well, your Royal Highness, it says, Is Legal Sex Anal?’ And she said, ‘Hmm. Very erotic.’ It was a wonderful put-down.
“It fetched £42,000, but it was not bought by that member of the Royal Family.”