The Kingdom (lot 5, Evening sale)tiger shark, glass, steel, silicone and formaldehyde solution with steel plinth, 214 by 383.6 by 141.8cm., executed in 2008.
Sotheby's London is in the process of auctioning off 223 artworks by Damien Hirst directly from the studio of the artist. The Sotheby's London auction, titled Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, has caused much debate concerning the harm it could have on the primary market. Some traditional galleries and supporters of traditional galleries have been in an uproar over the influence that an auction house can have on the art market. The success of the first night has made their concern a blunt reality.
Hirst has played his part in fueling the fire. While he has stated that he will never stop working with galleries he has also went on to say that selling at an auction house is a very “democratic way to sell art” and that it is a “natural evolution for contemporary art”. Hirst has made other statements that question the validity of traditional galleries and enforce the assumption that they cater to specific collectors. Such as, “There’s a hell of a lot of money in art - but the artists don’t get it”, and, “The artist doesn’t make any money, but everyone else does.”. Concerning the current auction, which ends today, Hirst stated that he embraces the challenge of selling his work in that way. For weeks critics and art world insiders have speculated about the risk that Hirst had taken with his career. Criticism aside, the result from last night was in Hirst’s favor. Will other artist heed his call?
Needless to say, hundreds of traditional gallery owners and supporters do not want the primary market to evolve in that manner. What Hirst observes as evolution is considered by many to be an unneeded and possibly dangerous revolutionary step against the long-standing system of art commerce. Only time will tell if that success will spur other artists to deal directly with auction houses instead of their galleries. One thing is for certain, some traditional galleries focusing on major artists are undoubtedly nervous about the success of Beautiful Inside My Head Forever.
My guess is that the plight facing traditional galleries will become worse before it gets any better. A good gallery owner learns to adapt to changes in the art market. However, galleries are faced with stiff competition in the market of today. Many feel that they have to scramble to be accepted into major art fairs before rival galleries ‘steal’ their slot. If the art fair is invitation only they wait on pins and needles hoping that they will be selected. Now they have even more competition to face in the form of auction houses representing the blunt of an artists career.
Traditional gallery owners are faced with questions about how they can remain valid in a market that appears to be dominated by nontraditional ways of conducting commerce involving art. It is as if there is a joint front against the way things were, so to speak. The question is… will this shift in art market dynamics be a positive change for artists? Or has Hirst bitten off more than what others will be able to chew?
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Take care, Stay true,