Of the 19 original lots from Damien Hirst's record-breaking 2008 Sotheby's sale, 17 have depreciated, adding up to a total loss of almost $3 million.
Now may not be the best time to resell a Damien Hirst. New analysis by Artnet News reveals that the value of resold artworks from Damien Hirst’s record-breaking 2008 Sotheby’s auction Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, which raised £111 million ($146 million) for 218 items, have plummeted. Of the 19 original lots, 17 have depreciated, adding up to a total loss of almost $3 million. Nearly a decade on to the day, journalist Tim Schneider crunched the numbers to reveal a dire prognosis: when resold, 11 of the 19 lots had lost about 40 percent of their original selling price.
At the height of the subprime mortgage crisis in September 2008, the very week that the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch to the Bank of America was announced, Damien Hirst was breaking world records for the highest-selling auction dedicated to a single artist. At the two-day auction at Sotheby’s in London, most lots sold for well above their estimate. Angel was valued between £40,000 ($52,437) to £60,000 ($78,655). But when the hammer finally came down, estimates were woefully undervalued as the bidding finished at £235,250 ($308,425).
At the time Hirst, who was in the midst of creating his spin, spot and butterfly works, was manufacturing artwork at a rate never seen before. Employing 120 people, spread out over six locations around England, he couldn’t make work fast enough for the market’s appetite. But the rush to own a Hirst was fueled by hype, and a decade later, the bubble he created has definitely burst. Even a month after the mammoth sale, the market was beginning to show signs it was becoming tired of Hirst’s gimmicks. In an article from 2010, Art Market Monitor detailed the deprecation of resales from Beautiful Inside My Head Forever: “After September 2008, the month that featured Hirst’s ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever‘ sale, his market bottomed out. The glut of works in Hirst’s historic September auction may have decreased the demand for his art, even his high-end output. Hirst’s butterfly, spin and spot paintings account for the most value on his market today (his Vitrines and Cabinets have all but disappeared from auctions since 2008). At the September sale, all three categories of his work brought lower average prices than they had achieved in prior months, and those averages have since declined further.”
Whether or not that sharp decline in resale value is impacting Hirst’s current work is hard to tell, but last Friday it was also announced that Hirst is shedding 50 staff members from this company Science Ltd. However, his spokesman was quick to clarify that the move wasn’t for financial reasons. “These changes are not driven by a need to reduce costs but by his desire to cut the corporate elements of the business to get back to a simpler way of working focusing on his art.”