Friday, September 12, 2008

Soul Searching

Next week, Sotheby's is going to auction off 223 artworks directly from the studio of artist Damien Hirst. This bold move into the primary market by the auction house has stirred up quite a bit of commentary, including in forums that I support and participate in (such as Artworld Salon), but as of yet I have not been able to bring myself to openly write on the topic. Oh I've sent a few hotly worded tirades through back channels, but in re-reading any of them I realized I sounded whiny or reactionary or, worse, anti-artist.

Indeed, my biggest reservation in talking about Sotheby's land grab has been that it's difficult to do so without seeming to question whether or not Hirst should have control over his career, which of course not only should he, but I'm on record as encouraging other artist to think outside the box and have singled Mr. Hirst out specifically as someone who's done so very well. Reserving all my criticism then for the auction houses seemed disingenuous though, because clearly this arrangement is something Mr. Hirst is strongly defending as well.

Also keeping my fingers away from my keyboard, admittedly without courage, was knowing that I really wanted to see how the auction goes before commenting. That would be unfair though. If the auction tanks, then my response would possibly come off as a "told-you-so" postmortem, making me seem both cowardly and petty. If the auction does well, then any reservations I had expressed will seem unprescient, unprogressive, and even more anti-artist.

I felt stuck. This is possibly a total game changer, and I couldn't sort out how to express my visceral sense that this was not something the art world would truly benefit from.

Enter the brilliant Roberta Smith. In a review of an exhibition at the newly opened New York branch of the gallery Haunch of Venison (love, love, love that name) she insightfully nails the potential pitfalls of auction houses tiptoeing into the primary art market. Haunch of Venison, you see, is owned by Christie's auction house, and if their first New York exhibition is any indication, then my gut was right...there are game-changing mutations that come along for the ride here. I like to think I'm forward thinking, but embracing the bold new world doesn't mean you leap blindly into a void.

Smith forewarns of her misgivings in the review's opening sentence, but two later observations were what pieced it altogether for me.
Christie’s acquisition of the gallery, announced early last year, raised questions about conflict of interest, but now the arrangement seems almost quaint. After all, next week Sotheby’s will auction off a large batch of new works by Damien Hirst directly from his studio, completely bypassing art dealers, galleries, the viewing (and reviewing) public.
This show should be seen for its high points and a few of [curator David] Anfam’s juxtapositions. But the main lesson here is that it takes more than great art, new walls and a no-sale policy to make an art gallery. Galleries are forms of expression; they need at least a smattering of vision. Absent that, the effect is soulless and corporate.
But even in letting myself cheer at that sentiment, I realized I'm still not addressing why this move is bad for artists. So it's bad for galleries and critics...should artists care? The answer is yes if they care about posterity and whether future generations will feel that the way the art of our time was selected for preservation had any integrity. You see, the strength of an auction-house-backed gallery like Haunch of Venison has a pull somewhat akin to that of a black hole:
More than a third of the show’s 60 or so works have been lent by museums — the Whitney, the Modern and the Albright-Knox among others — which adds a veneer of respectability but leaves one wondering why museums would participate in such a redundant, aggrandizing show. The least offensive answer is that the museums are doing favors for Mr. Anfam, a respected scholar of postwar American art with numerous books and museum exhibitions to his name. Maybe they just want to remain in good standing with Christie’s, or Mr. Pinault. But probably each loan has its own route. For example, Haunch’s international managing director, Robert Fitzpatrick, is the former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which has sent Franz Kline’s 1955 “Vawdavitch.” Although about a dozen of the remaining works are lent by dealers, Mr. Fitzpatrick said that Haunch of Venison, at least, is not selling anything in the show. That may be too slender a hair to split.
Again, God bless Ms. Smith.

I know, because I read the comments here, that there are folks who feel even the current gallery system is too corporate and soulless. Some folks simply feel that art is soiled by commerce, and that it's pointless to draw moral distinctions between an art gallery like, oh say, ours and what Christie's is doing with Haunch of Venison. And perhaps, taking a long view, they're right. But without at least the expectation that a gallery is serving the public with risk-taking exhibitions and artist-centric (as opposed to market-centric) concerns determining at least some of the programming decisions, we do lose just that little bit more of soul in the art world.

Personally, I think these days we should cling to all the soul we can.

Labels: auction houses


Blogger George said...

Damien is so cool, acting as the consummate insider selling at the market top. Aided Sotheby's acting as the art worlds PT Barnum to fleece the prospective collectors who will doubtfully ever see a profit from their purchases. It is a sure sign that we are at a market top, my guess is that the auction will be a bust.

Oh, perhaps I'm being too harsh. I suppose that Hirst may turn into a latter day Dali, producing all matter of numbered and re-sellable items to fuel a musical chairs industry for another fifty years. I heard he's not making anymore "spin" paintings and the "dots" are in short supply. McMansion owners you better step up to the plate and get them while they're hot.

Andy is laughing his ass off from the grave.

Enough ! [Barack Obama]

9/12/2008 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

I read all of MAN's links yesterday to DH's recent coverage in Time, etc- and I think DH faces problems few other artists face- is he changing the game? is he making great art? only time will tell... even he admits galleries have better spaces than auction houses (should we infer that the gallery context is important) although the auction houses provide a more egalitarian shopping experience- it makes me wonder, what is the view like from the top?

9/12/2008 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Whatzat ol' sayin' ?

Everybody's got a price !


9/12/2008 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first to be dismissed as irrelevant were the critics. Now the galleries? So now the collectors and only the collectors determine what art is good? Free market wins.

I suspect that artists who have considerable marketing skills like Hirst will succeed in any permutation of the art world, at least in the short run.

But before I reject the new structure, the Medicis and royalty shaped the course of art history through their purchases. Our economic system seems to be returning to that model, wedging out the middle class and the experts in favor of money and corporations.

9/12/2008 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Short term brilliant, long term stupid.

In the short term it is great publicity. Everyone is talking about this but they are not talking about the art just the marketing. Still any press is good press and in the case of the "bad boy" of art even negitive is positive.

In the long term he is flooding the market with his art which can have negitive reprecussions for years.

9/12/2008 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I keep reading about this and wondering why the galleries don't turn around and get into the auction business. As far as I can tell, the galleries and the auction houses represent two distribution models that are not mutually exclusive. I could see, for instance, a group like NADA putting on an auction of the artists they represent. That could be fun and provide useful feedback to gallerists about their prices. Even individual galleries could put on auctions - they're not rocket science.

Obviously I'm not worried about auction houses eating the galleries' lunch. Adapt and survive. Soul is in the work, not the revenue model. (Or in Hirst's case, soul is not in the work.)

9/12/2008 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Soul is in the work, not the revenue model.

I entirely disagree. Many galleries have plenty of soul.

9/12/2008 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Ries said...

I think this is a bit overblown-
First, very very few artists can, or would want to, do this.
The auction route will work for Hirst, and Koons, and a few others, who are already household names- but many artists work simply would not sell well enough, or at high enough prices, for the auction houses to be even interested.

So its kind of like saying- McClaren made a limited edition sports car that sold, without dealers, for $1 Million each- does that mean your neighborhood Kia dealer is doomed?

Of course not.

Different market segments need, and will get, different marketing approaches.

The other thing is that many artists WANT to have a gallery show- they want to show a cohesive body of work, in one place, for a month, where people can come in and experience an entire environment as the artist intended. This is equally as true for somebody who is doing watercolors of Yosemite as an artist who does video installations.
You simply cannot truly experience complex artworks in an auction house- Its just about selling, and nothing else.

Which is fine, if, like Hirst, you seem to think that just making, and selling, discrete objects, is the goal. (I know, he does museum shows, and will continue to do so, but this auction is not a show)

I think many artists LOVE to sell their work- but its also important to actually look at the stuff, yourself, out of the studio, in a clean white space, and present your ideas to the world- maybe not as important as the cold hard cash, but its sure a part of the work and the process to me, and not one I am gonna want to give up on.

I also like the synergistic feeling of a good gallery- I benefit from the aura of the other artists who show in mine, and not just financially- a gallery assumes a personality and a reputation, and my work is benefited from that. I am proud to have been part of some of the galleries I have shown in- but I sure couldnt see any such associations with an auction house- they are crass and commercial, no matter how many airs they put on.

9/12/2008 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The other thing is that many artists WANT to have a gallery show

I find this as well, even for artists who are not presenting anything to sell (like our current exhibition)...the context is an important part of the overall dialog with the public. Yes, something like it can be had in museums and nonprofit spaces, but a gallery is an option for a context that potentially offers both.

First, very very few artists can, or would want to, do this.
The auction route will work for Hirst, and Koons, and a few others, who are already household names- but many artists work simply would not sell well enough, or at high enough prices, for the auction houses to be even interested.

What no one is saying here, but I will, is that dealers expect to one day profit from the work they've done to promote an unknown artist. They hope to continue to share the profits from having the foresight, vision, and dedication to promote that artist long after that artist is a household name.

This is a very risky venture...only a few artists will reach that stage...but the dealers are taking that risk and so if you create an environment in which after an artist reaches a certain stage they can dump the dealer, cut the dealer out of future profits, etc. the motivation to take those risks is seriously diminished.

9/12/2008 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Currently the gallery system is akin to snake oil sales men hocking elixirs and tonics. Overly priced hyped products touted to gullible Marks and Saps. if the critics have become irrelevant it is of their own design, should the galleries follow it is theirs as well.

Any market is powered by supply and demand and what better way to maximize the value of the equation then out in the open direct bidding.

The forecast: the top gets higher, the bottom gets gutted, the snake oils salesmen go packing, that is until they figure out how to game the system.

As in any paradigm shift, those who adapt survive, those who resist disappear. look at what has happened to music, the CD is dying, Itunes is growing, the Album's a relic the 8 tracks a footnote. there are still musicians writing songs.

The intangible "Art" whatever it "has been", "is", or "will become", survives despite the rise or fall of the institutions that surround it.

9/12/2008 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

As the previous commenter said, going direct to auction only means something for Koons, Hirst and Murakami.

I don't really have a problem with artists wanting to make a buck after they've seen their own works sold for millions in auction sales of which they didn't make a penny. These 3 artists won't have their whole career destroyed because of these actions, or if they decide to sell their works directly to collectors. They have bypassed the need of galleries, and some of them actually have experienced some form of betrayal by their respective gallerists, which would justify enough their mistrust of the gallery system.

My problem with auctions is that often the works get lost to the mansions of the buyers, and you never get to see them anywhere. It's as if the artists didn't care at all about their audience, or exhibiting in places that favor contemplation for the greater public, but Koons has designed a great online catalog raisonnee of his works, which shows that he respect his fans, and Hirst I hear is soon to follow.

Nevertheless, it's a huge Damien Hirst exhibit that we're missing in London these days because it's too short. The very least from auction house, with all the millions they are making, is that they should present these works for a month or two. Make the event wothwhile for anything else than medias reporting sale figures.

Because they seem to be the institutions in which the big art pieces are passing, I'm starting to think they could (should) have a bigger role in the exhibiting process as well, which such endeavours as launching Haunch Of Venison could be tantamount. I have sensed a lacking from museal institutions in being able to afford the big chunks in recent years, and this situation also requires adaptation: if the patrons are not willing to pass on their salon's baubles anymore, at least show them before they get their hands on them.

Cedric Caspesyan

9/12/2008 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The Hirst sale is an event which can only occur near a market top when the residual excitement for buying art is still strong. In a market trough this type of sale would fall flat.

Anon said "Short term brilliant, long term stupid." I'll buy that, Damian Hirst is cashing out. Whatever negative repercussions occur will have its affect in the after-market, the current buyers will be left holding the bag, not Hirst.

Another anon said: "The first to be dismissed as irrelevant were the critics. Now the galleries? So now the collectors and only the collectors determine what art is good? Free market wins."

Kind of. Fine art has been the playground of the rich for a long time, the moneyed taste of arts patrons ultimately shape what we consider to be good and continue to reinforce these decisions over time.

However, the taste of the patrons is influenced by the other participants in the art world, the artists, the gallerists, the curators, and the critics. I would suggest that it is only at a market top that everything seems so clear, so obvious, that the patrons can wantonly bid prices into the stratosphere. When the markets cool off, as they are starting to now, the other art market players will regain control (influence).

Damien Hirst is selling out because he is finished, history. This auction could not have occurred at a better time. It should now be clear, that it is time to turn the page, time for a new critical perspective, time for something new in the studio. Give the kids a chance.

9/12/2008 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never had the hirst fetish; I've always felt if u drag the shark, cow formaldahyde displays back to the Museum of Natural History, they're just another display. The spin paintings--lateral moves to Warhol's paint by numbers.

So, I ask from a more mundane position, isn't moving to an auction house a question of does the artist have to share a small percentage of the sale price? If the galleries on the average take 50%, and the auction deals it for only 30%, isn't the artist a fool for not at least sending some of their work there?

Ed, it's understandable why u would complain, u run a gallery right?

9/12/2008 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim L said...

This kind of move only works for the top 0.1% of artists, where the fight for a "niche" in the marketplace has already been fought by the artist, the collectors and the galleries who believed in the work long before the price tag vultures of the auction world swoop in for the carrion (...preserved in formaldehyde or not)

Would Christie's have auctioned Hirst's studio work before or even for some considerable time after the YBA show? Not in a million years.

The gallerist who believes in the unknown artist because of the work will still have the foundational place in the system. Christie's just sees a number, the gallerist sees art (and then a number :-)

9/12/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Many galleries have plenty of soul.

But that has nothing to do with their revenue model, which is to put a compelling inventory together and try to convince people to buy some of it. An auction house does the same thing in a somewhat different format. If a gallery can have soul, an auction house could too. I guess I should have asked it explicitly: what do you think of holding your own auction as a gallerist?

9/12/2008 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger the expat/pissedpoet said...

I think Franklin maybe onto something here.
Why can't a gallery organize an auction? Ed???
Along the lines of the exhibition end party being an auction of those works that didn't sell during the preceding month.
Sounds like desperation? Perhaps, although a couple of years ago I had a work that was a finalist in a juried competition which I put into an auction at another venue. At the time of the auction I also had a successful solo exhibition (hung 15, sold 18) happening at a third venue. The work in the auction sold for double the price of the works in the solo exhibition. And a month later the buyer of the auction work came to the studio and brought a second un-exhibited work.

An aside about critics v collectors, I would contend that a collector is a critic who will put their money where their mouth is.

9/12/2008 08:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple things. I paint for a living, been around for awhile, and have found that I can contact collectors/buyers directly thru a combo of means and sell to them thru Facebook/Myspace. I avoid the 50% mark up and there are other favorable options. Downsides are there, but it beats buttfuking people on a grant committee and wondering what your dealer does w/ their time.

As for Roberta Smith, her salty husband as well, they have been propping up has been artists for market value. I would not take them as a source of authority. They have only to lose if galleries disappear as their word count on reviews means money. I see them as having colluded w/ auction houses to drive up prices.

9/12/2008 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

what do you think of holding your own auction as a gallerist?

It entirely depends on the art you're selling. In the primary market, working with emerging artists, it would probably be suicidal. For the same reasons you don't want an emerging artist's work to end up at auction house auction (i.e., if the work goes for too much it skews all the prices up, perhaps prompting other collectors to take their pieces to another auction or try to trade them back in...if it fails to meet its estimate it skews all the prices down, at least psychologically in the minds of collectors), you wouldn't want to host an auction either. It generally takes years to establish a stable market for an emerging artist (the average seems to be about 3-5 years, but we all know artists who took much longer), so within the emerging market, I think it's a bad idea.

For multiples or more established work, I would be curious. I know a few galleries who host auctions (photography mostly) but ...again...working in the emerging artist market, I'm not sure it would be easily applicable without lots of risk.

08:41:00 PM anonymous, unless you have evidence of the collusion you're asserting, I'd keep my name off such wildly speculative comments too. Or hire a good attorney well versed in libel law.

As for this "I avoid the 50% mark up and there are other favorable options. Downsides are there, but it beats buttfuking people on a grant committee and wondering what your dealer does w/ their time." best of luck to you, seriously...

But you highlight a myth about dealers I feel it's time to dispel. The implication that your dealer should be paid by the hour (hence your concern with how they spend their time) reflects an ignorance of the business. A dealer works on a commission model, and like many other sales people who work for commission, a dealer works hours and hours, if not months or years trying to sell an artist's work and still often ends up with little to nothing to show for it.

The implication in your charge though is that they only earn the 50% off any sale if they're selling all the time for you (as if they had any incentive to not try).

The fact of the matter is though, that even giving you one solo exhibition will generally cost any gallery you'd complain wasn't selling enough of your work much more money than a few sales will pay them back, so essentially, despite your implication that they're ripping you off, they have actually invested more in promoting your work to the rest of the world than they've seen come back to them, meaning technically if you balance things out, you still got the much better end of the deal.

9/12/2008 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea that dealers are taking advantage of artists has been fostered by decades of art school teaching. I heard it in the 60s and 70s; other artists heard it in subsequent decades. I'm assuming it came from professors who
a) were too involved teaching to go out and really make their careers; or
b) had been rejected in their quest for gallery representation and brought that negativity back to the classroom.

At some point, the idea took on a life of its own.

If you work with dealers, you know this is an untrue (except for a few sleazy exceptions). We're all in it together, all trying to support ourselves on our talents and skills.

Professional courses are being taught in art schools now--by artists who are out there showing and selling--and there's a better dynamic between artist and dealer, if only because . When I hear anti-dealer sentiments I assume the artist is middle aged, the product of outdated thinking.

9/13/2008 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, bad edit above. "....and there's a better dynamic between artist and dealer." Period.

9/13/2008 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not blame top-tier market stars for going the auction route. Indeed, if their dealers are careless enough to sell works to speculative collectors without the proper legal, enforcable re-sale proviso, then why shouldn't an artist provide works directly to the auction house?

Let's say I'm Banks Violette. I sell a new sculpture through my gallery for $80,000. I trust my dealer knows his business and is doing all he can to protect my market. The sculpture never leaves the gallery's storage space. They pay, but they do not pick it up. 14 months later the collector calls my dealer and says 'Sotheby's is going to pick the piece up, please have it prepared for shipping." Four months later, the same exact piece ends up on the block estimated to sell for twice what it was originally sold for. It does even better, garnering much more than double.

So, why the hell am I only walking away with $40,000 minus labor and materials? Why WOULDN'T I just take my work directly to Sotheby's and let the highest bidder have it? Why is my dealer selling to people like this?

I'm not Banks, just using him as an example.

9/13/2008 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Painter Fag says:


I went thru art school, fairly conservative program w/ some attempt at NYC affiliation, and never heard a thing spoken about dealers, good or bad. In hindsight, if anything, I wish they would have had a money management/studio course.

I was generalizing, but let's take the 50% model. My skepticism relates to a phantomized bad dealer. This would be one, like I had, who basically runs a turnkey operation. Turn the lights on, turn the lights off in the evening, move the furniture every month, and wait for people to love me. I also had a great dealer who had a developed client list, placed work in people's homes, produced exhibitions, and spread the word. I had no problem w/ him getting 50% of my labor. Moreover, u must mention that there are deals, where if i sold so much, then the dealer's take go's down to 40%. So, it's much more fluid than represented here, and my good dealer only took 30% on commissions he generated. I would give the gallery 20% commission when I worked on my own prospected commissions. What I was lambasting was the BAD dealer, who creates the classic Marxist alienation where I become alienated from my own labor, painting. It happens. You can't honestly expect anyone to believe all dealers are good. The case of Basquiat and Bischoffberger is one of the better known examples and I know enough people who have not been paid for works sold months b4 to know things are not all fuzzy warm.

Lastly, what do u call the Saltz and Smith engagement of their value to promote Brice Mardens a while back? You honestly don't think this was a wink to book dealers and nervous collectors afraid to see their purchases slide like the values of homes recently? I think there is enough consensus to equate his meandering lines w/ lava lamps to discount the value Jerry and Roberta placed on the work. This is not libel, this is pointing out a possible attempt at market manipulation. In other words the articles are out of whack proportionally speaking to the work. Aren't we being a little naieve here?

9/13/2008 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic, but I need some help:
When does a young artist know when or if to leave their gallery? What's a fair excuse to leave? Do you base the decision on the personality of the dealer? Whether you like their roster? Briskness of sales? Competency on the business end (good administration, timely payment, etc.)? The "prestige" of the gallery? What of this is the most important? It seems like rate of selling is tops for most people. What do you think Ed? From the artist's and/or gallerist's perspective?

9/13/2008 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the art of tirade 8)

9/13/2008 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Franklin said, “Soul is in the work, not the revenue model.”

Ed replied, “I entirely disagree. Many galleries have plenty of soul.

I have to agree with Ed and I would go as far as to say that an auction house can have ‘soul’ as well. It all depends on who is running the gallery or the auction. Just as their can be artists who create art with no ‘soul’. I suppose it all depends on how you use the word.

However, if the issue is about money, about buying and selling, all I can say is that it is hypocritical for an artist to state that a gallery or auction is without soul if that same artist desires to have his or her work sold at said gallery or auction. It is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

As for some of the other comments about artists and galleries... I've found that artists and gallery owners actually have a lot in common. That said, it is possible to be cheated by a gallery, but it is also possible to be cheated by an artist. Again, it depends on the person behind the gallery and the person behind the brush, so to speak.

9/13/2008 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Sroka said...

Re Anon@12:42's comment: "What I was lambasting was the BAD dealer, who creates the classic Marxist alienation where I become alienated from my own labor, painting. It happens."

Artists need to remember that art is a business. They are not victims of the system -- they are participants. If they are working with a gallerist who they feel is not earning their commission, then they should find another, or find another means of sales. Just like any other business person.

Regarding Damian Hirst, and the potential impact his actions have on the art industry: I believe they'll have little or none. He is not so much an artist as a rock star. What he does, and what he can do has little bearing on the rest of us (other than being fun/perplexing to watch).

9/14/2008 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger William said...

He is not so much an artist as a rock star.
I couldn't agree more with Daniel's statement. It's why I made a show about artist as rock star. In Hirst's case his own ego matches his public persona giving him the visibility to go directly to auction and bypass dealers. He realizes the value of his own objects as a commodity and can sell them directly to a body of collectors who will collectively determine the value. It's vaguely democratic (if you have a few million) unlike a gallery where the prices are fixed based on a fairly complex system of quality, size, reputation, demand, etc., Hirst doesn't need anyone to do that.

I really see Hirst simply occupying both the role of artist and collector; he has enough money to be both. For example, I can't even afford my own art. I can't afford what I sell. Hirst, definitely can buy his own work. I am dependent on collectors investing in my work, and they will be the ones who might profit should the long term gamble pay off. Hirst is no longer dependent on the gallery system, but he is not unique in that. Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang has operated outside the gallery system his entire career, perhaps distrustful of controlling systems, but it has not hampered his career. He still puts on major exhibitions, just not in galleries. He goes right to the museums.

What distinguishes Hirst's move seems to be the novelty of it. It's not the impact on the market that I am interested in, but the very act itself as an artistic intervention. I hope other people see this as something of performance in and of itself. It's a first, and art history loves the new, wherever it can be found.

You know, we sound a little like people lamenting the loss of the vinyl, or people who think digital music will kill the album. We still have all of it, just more ways of distributing ideas. Diversity makes things interesting.

9/14/2008 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He bombed in India. The current economic cycle, and with it the vast amounts of cash to be invested a speculation, is over. And with it the current court jesters of art, entertaining the rich. Most are robber barons, the very people that are wailed about by artists, are the ones who support the system. If you are a apart of it, you are apart of tehm. As buying drugs supplies cash for drug lords and revolutionairies.

Most buy art because that is the fastest rising income, temporarily, and a source of money landering. And theft and insurance fraud. They want to appear as being hip, and makes lots of cash, as they are advised by their bean counters. And society vultures. Its over, will be interesting to see the result, did Hirst bail in time? He has to unload his garbage somehow, and fast.

9/14/2008 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Belvoir said...

I must agree that this is vastly overblown. Damien Hirst at this point is working on a level where massive money flowing is his true medium. He is one of a kind, and this has nothing at all to do with 99.9 percent of artists and galleries out there.

He's doing it because he can. Just as Radiohead's "pay what you wish" model for their last CD sparked speculation about what it means for music, it's irrelevant. They had the luxury to do this, and most bands don't. Hirst has the luxury to do this, most artists never will.

Damien Hirst isn't about art any more, he's about money and global celebrity, and that is what is powering the Sotheby's event. And you know, I don't blame him, don't hold it against him in the least. I honestly wish him the best with this.

I'd like to see artists (and their estates) getting a much fairer share of auction prices than currently is the case, but that's another topic.

9/14/2008 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Painter Fag:

Interesting that many of the comments see Hirst more as a producer of spectacles and the issue of skipping the gallery in favor of the auction seems secondary. What I see missing in Ed's attempt to position the reviewer Roberta Smith is the realization that she becomes powerless. It seems that Hirst if he wants scholarly criticism, he can simply go to publishing books, thus skipping the kind of history of ideas development that exhibitions engender, or, one can publish one's doxia on your web site. The internet has changed things. This is not to say, exhibitions are lost; this is to say the same can be accomplished in another way. Now, not all works can support this type of platform, especially if u r working in a medium where the empirical discourse reigns supreme.

9/14/2008 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Hate to have to play the memory but you guys don’t recall Mark Tansey selling paintings directly from his studio at auction over ten years ago?

And didn’t Acquavella Gallery go into partnership to buy the contents of the Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1990 for $143 million? Google it

Hirst is not that original, and with Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch virtually evaporating over night, we’ll see how this affects the “auction”. This could be a mirror of society’s current position, a wonderful dramatic version of reality on display.

9/14/2008 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

"As of September 14, 2008 Banks Violette has decided to leave the art world all together. He issued a statement on his website saying: "I, Banks Violette, am sorry to announce that I will no longer be making or exhibiting my art anymore."

9/15/2008 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

It's been roughly 40 years since Peter Handke wrote the play "Insulting the Audience" Curiously, it was what immediately came to mind as I looked at the catalog for the Damien Hirst garage sale Tuesday.

I guess it is a joke, or maybe really intended as an insult to the audience. Many of the works have little, if any artistic merit. It is nothing more than name explotation.

So, I guess the assumption of the sellers is that the buyers will fork over their hard earned Euros so they can say, "Yes, it's a Hearst I picked up at Sotheby's" over cocktails. Well, it's their money, I suppose they can spend it as they like. But, Hirst is so passe, definitely last century, buy something else.

Fortunately the auction is well timed, the financial markets are crashing and probably will take Sotheby's and Damien down with them.

9/15/2008 01:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 12:57 the Banks Violette news is probably false - the link to his site posted with the quote on wikipedia goes to a pharmaceuticals listing.

9/15/2008 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pharmaceutical links on Violette's page are a dig at Damien Hirst.

By removing himself from the art market yesterday and replacing his website with links to Valium, Viagra, etc, he's distancing himself from the market and from Damien's sttrategy

9/15/2008 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Wikipedia reference to Banks having left the artworld is no longer there, nor is the attribution footnote to his website.

"His" website still sports all that pharma stuff, but it may not even really be his website.

9/15/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

Mark Tansey selling paintings directly from his studio at auction over ten years ago?


While you are probably right, does it matter ultimately if Hirst is remembered for it? Seems like Tansey's bid is about as memorable as he is, but I agree with you, Hirst isn't original. That's not his draw, it's more of his showmanship about the whole thing.

And with another 24,000 finance types watching their investment wealth disappear overnight, it seems like there might be an effect on the auction scene, but the majority of them probably aren't in the 1-4% of the nation and world's wealthiest individuals.

Hirst's market will probably still be there. Doesn't seem good for the other 98% of artists, like me!

9/15/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Those "finance types" just ate 500 DOW points, with more to come. (It's world wide problem right now)

From a psychological standpoint all the bidders just became a little more tight fisted.


9/15/2008 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Well, I forgot the sale was over there, BID (Sotheby's stock) jumped $1.50 in the last hour of trading while the DJIA was crashing. Conclusion, there still are buyers out there, stuff probably sold within the range or the stock wouldn't have gone up. We'll see tomorrow.

9/15/2008 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

may have nothing to do with artsy stuff, but the fact that many top firms are about to bite the dust. And they can sell off the remains. Ebay already swarming with Lehman garbage. We will find out tomorrow.

9/15/2008 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I haven't seen the results yet but I suspect from the price behavior in Sotheby's stock that todays sale went better than would be expected.

The fact BID managed to close in the green on a day when 93% of the NYSE issues were down is an indication that at least the first leg of the sale went well. I must admit I didn't think this would be the case.

There's this saying in the financial world, "a flight to quality", seems perverse but maybe there is a reverse psychology going on here where frightened money is fleeing paper assets for hard assets (gold was higher as well)

T'was an exciting day...

9/15/2008 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isnt Hirsts sale tomorrow? Or is it a two day deal? You know he would be pumping it up if he sold everything on the block, gotta go check it out.

9/15/2008 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

It's happening in three sections, the first was Sept 15th in the evening, but that's right now in NYC because of the 6 hour time difference. So I guess "tonights" sale is probably over already.

More stuff tomorrow.

9/15/2008 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing, he made a killing. The old saying was "never underestimate the intelligence of the American people", disproven long ago, now its "never underestimate the greed and gullibility of the art buying nouveau riche". Most old money is sittng their chuckling, while buying Caravagios.

9/15/2008 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

I'd say, let them eat their own pie. They deserve it. They baked it. They created him. Let them eat what they created.

I'm not a big expert, but that's just my gut reaction.

9/15/2008 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Belvoir said...

To Anonymous @ 6:50 : On a day where the US financial markets, and institutions have collapsed, while Damien Hirst triumphs in London:

The amazing, fantastic, wildly experimental American post-war dominance in the arts has officially come to its end.

Sad to say. But the evidence is there. It's happening now. Investors, or collectors abroad feel that the US is a sinking ship. Looking at the truly horrendous stewardship or our great country in the last eight years, it's hard to blame them.

The Philistines rule here, and are ascendant yet again. And look at where their economic policies have brought us, as a nation. To our knees. And they're tempted to vote for more of the same.

Dubious about democracy, at this point.

9/15/2008 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Stewart said...

Does anyone know the percentage that each party is getting out of this?

9/15/2008 11:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

The formaldehyde works are the most impermanent I can imagine,
so I'm not sure what people think it is that they are buying.

A lot of Damien's art is morbid, sad, and depressing. Do I really want to tag along people who enjoy this? I'm not saying it's not interesting, but... To have to watch it every day in your living room?

And I'm concerned about the ghosts of the dead animals, and their desires. If Damien gave me one of his dead animal work, I would simply have the animals pieces taken off and burried somewhere.
I have the image of the work, I don't need the real thing.



9/16/2008 12:25:00 AM  

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