What Happened to Damien Hirst?
Shortly after the mortgage market mayhem became a global financial affair, unsold rates for Hirst's work shot from 11 percent to 55 percent by the end of the year. A mere 12 months after his he emptied the insides of his head -- not to mention plenty of inventory -- prices for Hirst's work returned to 2004 levels. A year after buying "Butterfly" painting "I Miss You" in late October 2008, Christie's unloaded it for a mere $450,000, only half what it had paid. In 2004, the piece's initial auction price was $415,000. I suspect this is at least part of the reason why the auction houses backed away from guaranteed minimum pricing ...
With the books closed on 2009, only two pieces by Hirst pierced the million dollar mark, both from the "Butterfly" series. "Tranquility" brought in $1.5 million back in May at an auction in Hong Kong. Almost half a year later, "The Importance of Elsewhere-The Kingdom of Heave" brought in close to $2 million, again at a Hong Kong auction. Both sales came from Seoul, not the usual New York and London communities.
Further, the auction houses still seem to be a bit wary. They may be showing a little more zeal with their presale estimates, but they are generally sticking to more reliable artists. The speculators, art market-watchers note, aren't showing up. For Hirst, this is obviously a problem -- and one that is magnified for his devotees. In addition to keeping prices low, this dynamic could make it harder for collectors to unload works by Hirst, effectively causing liquidity in this artist to dry up.
A cynic would say that these collectors are getting what they deserve, but the polite alternative is: "As long as you love what you acquired, the monetary value doesn't matter."
Yeah, say that to the guy with the dead shark.