Monday, June 23, 2008

The Omen

It had to happen. Damien Hirst has announced that his next selling exhibition is going to be a Sotheby’s auction (you can get their media release here). This time, if you want a new work by Damien, you’re going to have to bid for it. In some ways this is good news for collectors because anyone (well anyone with that sort of money) has a chance to get a recent work. No queues, no “We don’t think you’re quite ready for a Hirst yet”, and no having to ask the price and wonder if it is specially tailored to your chequebook. Currently this approach is only really suited to artists like Hirst who already have an eager and competitive market.

Using auctions as a first point of sale (although not as dramatically as Hirst) is part of the scene in New Zealand. Artists like Philip Trusttum and Brent Wong appear to have used auctions as their first point of sale for many years and recent catalogues for Art + Object and Webb’s show that dealer galleries (e.g. City Art Rooms at Webb’s) are already into it. But the scale of the Hirst initiative could be a warning sign to dealers of changing times as some artists gain more power. As we have suggested before, auction houses can quite easily become more dealer-like in the services they offer, but it is tough for dealers to participate in the auction world as anything other than just another seller.