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Damien Hirst: To be or not to be an artist

Art Market | Damien Hirst’s current strategy contrasts with the one that earned him a reputation for being the “terrible child” of British art when he started out. From being over exposed in the media during the 2000s through a series of memorable appearances, his public speaking has since seemed rarer. This change in communication extends to his artistic practice and his relationship to the market. To be or not to be an artist.

Damien Hirst avec l’une de ses nouvelles oeuvres ‘‘Veil Paintings‘‘ à la Galerie Gagosian à Beverly Hills © Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times
Damien Hirst avec l’une de ses nouvelles oeuvres "Veil Paintings" à la Galerie Gagosian à Beverly Hills
© Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

In 2017, the Pinault Collection gave Damien Hirst free rein to expose in the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Cana. Titled Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable, this exhibition, built around the extremely detailed storytelling of some 189 newly created works, offered the artist a strong international media coverage during the Venice Biennale. His last major exhibition to date, it came along when the restructuring of the Hirst brand began; a restructuring aimed at enhancing his status as an artist rather than an entrepreneur.

Through the renewed collaboration with Gagosian in 2016, Hirst reintegrated the American dealer’s empire, its network and its 16 galleries located in strategic cities.
However, there are significant differences between the three exhibitions organized since 2017 and those before 2012, in particular Damien Hirst : The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011 :
- Visual Candy and Natural History (November 2017 - March 2018) at Gagosian Hong Kong proved classic in both form and substance, with a choice of paintings and sculptures from the 1990s, without excess or exaggeration.
- For The Veil Painting (March - April 2018) at Gagosian Beverly Hills, Hirst presented a series of works that he recently created alone, without help from his assistants. Described in his own words as « anti-Venice » , this proposal breaks off from the mass and serial production of works and derived objects on which his artistic career was built. A massive production that, by slowly saturating the market, is largely responsible for the gradual and constant decline in the price of his works in recent years.

In this context, Sotheby’s organized, in New York, at the end of September 2018, the ’Yellow Ball sale from the Frank & Lorna Dunphy collection. Distributed in 2 sequences, one physical, the other online, this vacation shines an updated light on Damien Hirst’s rating : out of the 205 works on offer, the 101 lots signed by Hirst generated almost $ 8.3 million i.e. 64% of the $ 13.7 million total sale.
Good results despite the absence of a millionaire bid; the highest awards were for works from the Butterfly series : Boys ’N’ Girls ’N’ Sun, 2006 was sold for $ 756,000 (est. $ 395,000 - $ 527,000).

All this is to put in perspective with the Pills retrospective planned for 2020 at the Brooklyn Museum on his Medicine Cabinets. It is worth noting that this exposure is, according to a statement by the pharmaceutical company to Hyperallergic, supported by the Sackler family, owner of Purdue Pharma and responsible for the production of the highly controversial drug OxyContin. To be continued.

Vincent Kozsilovics
Publié le 30/04/2019
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Version française

Damien Hirst avec l’une de ses nouvelles oeuvres “Veil Paintings“ à la Galerie Gagosian à Beverly Hills © Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Damien Hirst avec l’une de ses nouvelles oeuvres "Veil Paintings" à la Galerie Gagosian à Beverly Hills
© Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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