What has become of the masterpieces of Britart?

Charles Saatchi is selling Damien Hirst's shark to an American collector for £7m. Chris Bunting and James Burleigh examine the fate of the works that defined the aesthetic of a movement
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The Independent Online

DAMIEN HIRST: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living: Created: 1991

Present owner: Unknown New York collector

Where displayed: Expected to leave its home in the Saatchi Gallery, London, for the Museum of Modern Art, New York

Value: £6m to £7m

Damien Hirst's "pickled shark" launched the Britart movement. Hirst came to the notice of the art world in 1988 when he conceived and curated the Freeze exhibition in the Port of London Authority building but he became a tabloid celebrity in 1992 for his shocking preservation of a tiger shark in formaldehyde.

Charles Saatchi commissioned the work for £50,000. Its sale for between £6m and £7m to an unnamed American collector at the weekend brought speculation that Mr Saatchi might be abandoning his patronage of Britart. Charles Thompson, co-founder of the Stuckist art group and an opponent of Britart, said: "He is denying he is dumping it but how can the Saatchi Gallery exhibit Britart when the main exhibit is no longer there? It is like a court without a monarch, people will be asking, 'Where is the shark'?" Mr Thompson said: "Saatchi, because of the power he wields, can make something relatively worthless into something worth a huge amount.

It is the not-so-blind leading the blind. When it reaches the top of the market he can sell at a huge profit. It is a self-fulfilling, money-making scheme." Matthew Collings, author of a history of the London art scene, said the shark price tag was unlikely to mean a boom in Britart prices. "At present, Saatchi says he is interested in painting. The idea is that there is a big return to painting and it is a good time to get out of Hirst."

SARAH LUCAS: Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab: Created 1992

Present owner Charles Saatchi

Sarah Lucas studied art at Goldsmiths College and co-ran an art gallery, The Shop, in 1992 with fellow artist Tracey Emin. The same year, she displayed her most famous work, Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab, the food nailed to a wooden table but symbolically a female nude. Charles Saatchi bought it for an unknown sum. Her work includes Au Naturel and Penis Nailed to a Board.

CORNELIA PARKER: Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View: When made: 1991

Current owner: The Tate collection

Where displayed: Tate Modern, London

Cornelia Parker convinced the Army to blow up a garden shed filled with domestic objects and then collected the debris. Fragments of the shed and its contents were then suspended, as if in mid-explosion, in the shape of a cube.

MARCUS HARVEY: Myra: When made 1995

Current owner Charles Saatchi

Where displayed Saatchi Gallery, County Hall, London

Marcus Harvey contributed an 11ft by 9ft portrait of the Moors murderer Myra Hindley to the aptly named "Sensation" exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997. The work recreated in paint the famous picture of Hindley from the time of her trial but, on close inspection, appeared to be made up of a collage of children's hand-prints. Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett, one of Hindley's victims, said she was "disgusted". Even Hindley condemned the work.

JAKE AND DINOS CHAPMAN: Tragic anatomies: When made 1996

Current owner Charles Saatchi

Where displayed On tour

For a solo exhibition at the ICA in London in 1996, Jake and Dinos Chapman used mutant child mannequins, naked except for Nike trainers and with genitalia sprouting from their faces, in their "Garden of Eden" tableaux. Saatchi bought their perverse playground for the Royal Academy's Sensation exhibition in 1997.

RACHEL WHITEREAD: House: When made: 1993

When destroyed: 1993

In 1993, Rachel Whiteread won the £20,000 Turner Prize for House, a concrete cast of the interior of a terraced home in the East End of London. She was also awarded £40,000 by the art/music collective K Foundation on the same night for being the worst artist of the year. Whiteread took eight weeks to produce the sculpture using 70 tons of concrete to fill the property. Production costs were estimated at £50,000. On the night Whiteread won the Turner Prize, she was told that Bow Council intended to knock down her artwork and build a children's playground. The council's leader, Eric Flounder, called the sculpture "utter rubbish".

MARC QUINN: Title Self

When made 1991

Current owner Charles Saatchi

Where displayed On tour

Quinn is best known for Self, in which he cast his head in nine pints of his own blood - the total amount of plasma in an average man's body. The blood was removed over five months. The piece was bought by Charles Saatchi in 1991 for a rumoured £13,000. It is said that the artist remoulds the piece every five years.

TRACEY EMIN: Everyone That I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995: Created: 1995

Current owner: Burned in Momart fire

The work was destroyed in last year's Momart warehouse fire, after which a specialist valued it at over £1m. The tent, embroidered with the names of everyone Emin had slept with, prompted derision from many quarters when first shown in 1995. Emin was criticised for philistinism and exhibitionism. After the fire, a newspaper claimed to have recreated the tent for £39.99. Emin condemned them for philistinism.