How to buy a Damien Hirst for pounds 120
Wednesday 17 December 1997
I lost Tracey Emin's dog while moving house. It was a sort of Scottie, with pricked ears, that she had fashioned with scissors out of a Marlborough cigarette packet. It was signed in felt-tip and marked pounds 3 - the price I paid her. During my move, unnoticed in a twist of wrapping paper, it was chucked out. So I lost the cheapest-ever artwork by a Saatchi "Sensation" artist.
It just goes to show how ephemeral "multiples" can be - those objects made in limited and limitless editions by established artists, allowing the likes of you and me to buy their work cheaply. At least, that was the idea in the Sixties, when multiples were all the rage - a subversive artform, designed to mock and undermine the commercial galleries' profiteering in expensive, one-off artworks.
Since then, the galleries have turned the tables. Joseph Beuys's 1,200 signed empty wooden boxes titled "Intuition ... instead of a cookbook", sold for pounds 1.50 each in 1968, now change hands for over pounds 6,000 each.
The Nineties revival of multiples - a showing by the Arts Council of its big collection; the Serpentine Gallery's rummage event "Take Me (I'm Yours)"; and Sarah Staten's launch of her touring Supastore Boutique - have not kept prices down. Turner Prize winner Rachel White-read's edition of 12 plaster hot-water bottles, pounds 750 each in 1992, are now worth around pounds 4,000. So I was gratified to find I could buy a minuscule manuscript autobiographical novel by Tracey Emin for a mere pounds 50 at the Institute of Contemporary Art's third annual sale of multiples, "The Glass Shelf Show". The edition is unlimited but the show closes on 30 January. Whether or not you will get one depends on how fast Emin can write.
Sensation artists Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, and Mark Wallinger have also contributed for-sale multiples. But there is no sign this year of Anya Gallaccio's tins of preserved rose petals (pounds 35 in the first show in 1995) or Hadrian Piggott's casts in soap (pounds 200 in the same show). A Gallaccio box of withered daisies fetched pounds 2,800 at the Sotheby's auction of multiples in June. And Piggott's soaps have at least doubled in value.
But if you hurry you can pick up a rude sculpture by ICA veteran Eduardo Paolozzi - in an edition of one, which rather contradicts the spirit of the thing - for pounds 150. Prices in the exhibition range from pounds 7 to pounds 1,000.
If the piece you want is sold out, then spend pounds 6.99 in the ICA bookshop on one of the Gary Hume's printed pop-out model house kits that he distributed at last year's Sao Paulo Biennale. The interior contains prints of his pictures and his CV. It's a cross between a 3D multiple and that more familiar way that artists have of multiplying - the print.
Eduardo Paolozzi: Grass-hoppers, pounds 150. Genuine plaster cast of copulating grasshoppers by a progenitor of Fifties pop art, best known for his abstract metal sculptures. The edition of one is explained by the fact that he usually gives them away to friends. Also on offer: his plaster-cast Nosferatu's Rats, another edition of one, pounds 75.
Cedric Christie: Public Art, pounds 120, one of an edition of 120 bricks cast with the words "I could have done that". Cognoscenti will twig that 120 is the number of bricks in Carl Andre's stack Equivalent VIII, the artwork that caused ructions after the Tate Gallery acquired it in 1972. Christie, 35, has no art training. "I could have re-invented the wheel," he says, "but the fact is, it was Carl Andre who thought of it first, not me."
Christie's Sold, pounds 100, is a red billiard ball in an edition of 75 with his name and an edition number engraved on it and a screw protruding. Rather more inscrutable, this. It is intended to be a de luxe version of the stick-on red dots that signify "sold" in art galleries. Some rich buyers have screwed Christie's version to the wall beside expensive paintings they have bought.
Tracey Emin: Read all about the mistress of the monologue, the disrupter of late-night television, in her own partly joined-up and sometimes misspelled handwriting. Her thumbnail-sized novel of eight pages, Chicks II, rests on a cardboard plinth and begins: "We were 10 years old playing strip- poker untill [sic] we were naked. The doorbell rang ..." It will cost you pounds 50 to take it home and read the sequel. Unlimited edition.
Martin Creed: the ultimate ephemeral artwork - balls of A4 typing paper, pounds 10 each, with certificates of authenticity and edition numbers. Invented by Creed, a 29-year-old Slade graduate, during an impecunious period, these artworks have doubled in price from last year's pounds 5. He likes the way they seem to disappear as objects as soon as he makes them - thrown away by art gallery cleaners, even purchasers. Still, he rejects four out of five as sub-standard.
Siobhan Hapaska: this rising star, who this year sold at New York's Tanya Bonakdar Gallery a model of a Ferrari that plays sound effects of trench warfare and a braying donkey, offers 100 cold-cast bronzes of her navel, Bellybutton, at pounds 150 each - her first multiple. She calls it her metaphor for disengagement from the art world's cult of personality. Try it at home: you will need dental casting alginate, plaster for the first mould, silicon for the second, a paste of sculptor's bronze powder plus catalyst for the final cast - and the ability to keep from laughing for a few minutes.
Damien Hirst: Home Sweet Home, ceramic dish with print of cigarette ends, edition of 1,500, pounds 120 each. Buy a Damien Hirst that even Damien Hirst hates: he asked the Gagosian Gallery in New York to stop selling them. The ICA, sole stockists, have so far sold 60.
Mark Wallinger: by the artist who pronounced a racehorse a work of art, a contradictory miniature flag, Oxymoron, which looks like the Union Jack but borrows colours from the Irish tricolour. Catalyst for a miniature riot in certain pubs. Edition of 50, pounds 50 each.
Paul St George: the master of what he calls the "minumental" - and one of very few artists who specialise in multiples - offers six monuments much reduced. Shown here, Ghost, apres Rachel Whiteread, a familiar-looking shark, and a tiny Reichstag, wrapped as by Christo. All are strictly 10.5cm tall, long and wide. St George, a 43-year-old graduate of Bath Academy of Art, says his aim is to reveal how much monuments rely on their size and weight. So far, no one has bought one. Unlimited editions, pounds 50 each.
Jane Simpson: an exhibitor at Damien Hirst's ground-breaking shows, her multiple Ice Cream Cone is actual-size wobbly latex. Probably the unkindest exhibit. Unlimited edition, pounds 40.
The Glass Shelf Show, at the ICA bookshop, The Mall, London SW1, until 30 January. Monday-Saturday 12 noon-11pm, Sunday 12 noon-10pm (0171-925 2434)
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