The Possibility of Maximising the Value of an Contemporary Art Work in the Mind of an Artist Living (2012)

The current retrospective at the Tate Modern in London reminds the world that Damien Hirst has managed to sell his work at record prices and has remodeled the world of arts. 

His most expensive art work, For the Love of God (2007), was sold at Sotheby’s for £50 million.

He is the first artist who went directly to Sotherby’s to sell his latest produced artworks which were produced between his past exhibition Beyond Belief in June 2007 and October 2008. The collection of these art works were put together under the title Beautiful Inside my Head Forever and was first shown in public at the day of the opening day of the two-day auction, bypassing the usual steps of using a dealer to help find buyers. This is bad for dealers, but due to this Hirst’s highly established entrepreneurial skills, which he has fostered since he started university, he could increase his share of the total amount raised in auction.



Although Damien Hirst implied that the high value of his own work is as over-priced as other art works by contemporary artists he is still selling his artworks for overpriced. Opinions on the real value and price of his artworks are divided. A discussion was going in 2007 whether his most expensive artwork, the diamond and platinum skull, was really sold. The editor David Lee, editor of the art magazine The Jackdaw, said in 2007: “Everyone in the art world knows Hirst hasn’t sold the skull. It’s clearly just an elaborate ruse to drum up publicity and rewrite the book value of all his other work.” However Damien Hirst’s responds was that the buyer did not want to be identified.
Notably, his first business manager told him early on “always make sure that money is a key, it is not a goal”, and looking at the price of the diamond skulls show that it cost him £14million to produce the artwork. Hirst struck to the advice of his very first dealer, which cautions not to use art to make money but to use the money to make the art. And that is what makes Damien Hirst’s art unique as he sell art produced which amounting to enormous sums. Speaking in general terms, the amount of money an artist invests in painting on a white canvas or any other common material bears no relation to his personal investment. Hirst is not only running his own business but he is also one of the best investors in his art, which can be seen as an investment to keep up his status and to show the world how far the affluent would stamp out capitalism.

Clearly, it is paying off as the skull was sold about 3.5 times higher than the cost of producing it had been.
The question which arises at this point is, how are investors, other than the artist himself, valuing his artwork?
Certainly, investing in art is a game with a high risk and no securities for repayment.
Francois Pinault, ranked #53 of Forbes Billionaires worldwide, owns art works by Damien Hirst. In April of last year he told the Financial Times: “You don’t want anything trop aimable – c’est la séduction. There should be no seduction. You need shocks – Damien Hirst, for example, is having a difficult time now but that’s experience. Anyone who goes through life without tests and difficulties – huh!”

Damien Hirst has been shocking the world since his first exhibition took place in 1988. But shocking the world with the themes of some of his artworks as well as with their high prices might be one of the reasons why Damien Hirst is one of the most famous and the richest contemporary artist.
Are we not all thirsting for shocks to make our lives more exciting? As the French investor Mr Pinault said: “You need shocks. No seduction.”

Click here to watch a short part of a highly informative BBC series telling more about Damien Hirst. 


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