Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A True Maverick in the Face of Pretenders

Mr Hirst is nothing if not contravertial. But he must be admired for the recent auction of his work, a gutsy move on several fronts:

* He was offering work for sale for the first time (unlike galleries which only sells work that had sold before) The lots falling under the hammer at the September 5th auction lacked a historically confirmed valuation, which could have put his reputation at risk, moreso because of the intense publicity surrounding the event.

* Unlike the safe harbor of a gallery, the price of work can't be controlled when sold at auction (a reserve notwithstanding); the market determines the price and this can be uncertain, particularly for works that have not sold before.

* Selling a moderate number of lots helps to keep the price higher as supply is restricted. Hirst bucked the wisdom by offering a vast number of lots at one time which risked depressing the price (though this did not happen)

* The biggest convention he overturned however is the idea that an original work is produced at the hand of the artist. He employs more than 180 people in operations that amount to factories, assembly line in style, which produce works that Mr. Hirst approves, sometime from no more than a photograph. The result is a prolific scale of art for sale that is unmatched by other artists but not by his ambition and ravenous appetite for success.

Daniel Hirst can certainly be seen as an agent provocateur today, not just through his art but by how he goes to market. Has he always been like this?

We suspect that his mum may have the answer. She can shed light on whether pushing boundaries and hot buttons simply because they are there is a relatively recent development or whether it had early stirrings from the time he was lad.

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