Art Market Revolution Unlikely – artmarketblog.com
Since Damien Hirst announced that he would be bypassing the normal dealer route and selling his work directly at auction through Sotheby’s there have been more than a few people who have speculated that Hirst has set a precedent that will result in artists bypassing their dealers left right and centre and going straight to auction. I beg to differ. Consider this – In order for an artist to sell their work directly through auction they must still be alive which means that they would presumably have to be have a dealer representing them and selling their work. An artist without a prestigious dealer representing them would be unlikely to have the sort of track record required to successfully sell their work directly through auction and to be seen to not have a dealer would cause people to question the value and desirability of an artist’s work making success at auction even less likely.
In order to achieve success at auction an artist would presumably have to have their work sell for a higher price than that which the gallery representing them sells their work for otherwise the overall value of their work would suffer. The problem is, however, that one would have to presume that potential buyers of such an artist would know the price that their works sells for at the gallery and would not want to pay any more than they would pay at the gallery.
It is true that an artist would most likely receive a greater percentage of money from the sale of the work if sold through auction as opposed to selling through a dealer but for most artists the negative consequences would far out weigh any potential positives. There are only a few artists in the world who would have the sort of financial security that would allow them to risk being snubbed by art dealers one of whom is Damien Hirst. Hirst has done pretty well for himself with the Sotheby’s auction especially considering that the dealers that represent him actually bought works at the auction for what one would presume is far more than they would have normally paid. Having paid more for the works than normal, I am sure that the dealers will subsequently increase the price they sell the works for thus increasing the value of Hirst’s work even more.
It is quite clear that the success of the Sotheby’s Hirst sale was due largely to the novelty and hype associated with the event and as such would make a repeat performance by Hirst or any other artist unlikely. Art market revolution?? I think not.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications