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Hirst Auction a Paradigm-Smashing Success UPDATED

Peace Offering? “After the Flood,” the final lot in today’s Hirst sale

Wild whoops, mad applause (including claps from auctioneer Oliver Barker directed towards the deep-pocketed attendees). What more can one say?

Sotheby’s Hirst sale results are already online here, with the auction just concluded. The sale totaled $127.26 million (with buyer’s premium); bidding on only nine of the 56 works fell below their presale estimates and only two of those failed to find a buyer. Apparently dead flies are an unpopular subject. Old cigarette butts are welcome, however.

The total hammer price (without premium) was

$110.43 million, near the high end of the presale estimate of $77.93-112.5 million. (Other reporters will no doubt use the total WITH premium, misleadingly stating that it EXCEEDED the presale estimate, even though the estimate does NOT figure in the premium.)

As I reported in my previous post, the auction record for a Hirst work was broken: $18.66 million (with buyer’s premium) for “The Golden Calf,” a formidable formaldehyde.

This was a sale so strong in all respects that it might force Hirst to reconsider his determination to discontinue some of his “lines,” such as spin paintings and butterflies. How can you stop minting money?

The sale concluded with a typical Hirst zinger—a work entitled “After the Flood” (above)—an allusion, no doubt, to the “flooding-the-market” fears, now mocked. The final lot’s subject was a white dove, bearing an olive branch, signaling that the flood has subsided. (Actually, though, there will be two more Hirst sessions tomorrow.)

Peace and serenity now reign throughout art-market land…except perhaps among those dealers who are wondering about their redefined role in a brave new direct-to-auction world.

UPDATE: For Kelly Crow‘s more detailed report of the auction in the Wall Street Journal, go here.

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