Art market superbrat Damien Hirst makes his auction debut this week, when his painting Adrenochrome Semicarbazone Sulfonate goes under the hammer at Christie's post-war and contemporary British art sale on Wednesday (2.30pm), with an estimate of pounds 8,000-pounds 12,000.

This is a secondhand work, consigned by the Cologne dealer Luis Campana, who bought it from Hirst's agent, Jay Jopling. Horrors! Such is the moment that gives every up-and-coming artist nightmares: dumped by a gallery and consigned to a life-or-death fate on the saleroom block. The moment of truth.

Jopling is phlegmatic. He has no intention of attending the auction to support the price of his protege's work. He reckons Hirst is too established for that.

He wouldn't complain, he says, if the painting fetched only mid-estimate. But, anyway, he'll be in Rome when the hammer falls. And if anyone wants to buy a similar Hirst from him, it'll cost them something near the auctioneer's higher estimate. In fact, Christie's asked his advice before fixing the estimate.

The appearance of a Hirst at Christie's is a first swallow indicating greater confidence in the post-recession contemporary art auction market. Compare this summer's names at Christie's with last year's blue-chip names from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies: the conceptualist Yves Klein's blue smears from naked female torsos, Broodthaer's bricks and a Rauschenberg assemblage. However outrageous they might seem, such works are safe investments in a fragile market - buyers could be sure of re-selling for roughly the same price.

Hirst is but one of a new generation of contemporary Brits popping up for the first time at Christie's. There is 34 year old Scottish artist Callum Innes, one of last year's Turner Prize candidates, whose Repetition 20, is est pounds 1,200-pounds 1,800; and there's 1992 Turner Prize winner Grenville Davey, whose Purl, a white painted steel disc, is est pounds 4,000-pounds 6,000. Will any of these new names become Britain's next Richard Long, Bridget Riley or Paula Rego? You bids your money and you crosses your fingers.