Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A savvy artist who sells himself well

World-renowned spot paintings by Damien Hirst often have dots that equal the pinholes’ size whereas others about 60 inches across. They all have been celebrated, disdained, loved and hated for long thanks to a certain machinelike industrial monotony as well as uniformity. However, since they surfaced, somewhere in the mid-80s, some sort of a mystery has enveloped: exactly how many spot paintings are there?

Hirst has stated he actually painted the earlier few dozen, and the others were left to a coterie of trained assistants, who, it appeared, could create the same ad infinitum. For dealers, auction houses and buyers, the prospect of a rather unlimited supply was not a pleasant thing – it added to a complication emanating out of flooded market that was likely to affect future value of the paintings - not really a small apprehension when they could cost as high as $3.4 million.

According to Christie’s specialist (and in charge of the auction house’s evening sales) Koji Inoue, most art market experts didn’t have the exact count. Now Hirst’s London firm Science Ltd. is set to give a definitive number, finally. Other Criteria, his publisher, is going to release a book this fall - a catalog raisonné, which will show there are 1,365 spot paintings by him – to be precise. An official there has been quoted as saying: “All paintings are present in the book.”

For Hirst, the whole inventory is but another instance of how, as a businessman and above all as artist, he has managed to sail against the adverse winds. The catalog won’t just provide scholarly luster but also will boost the paintings in terms of prices that have fetched $53,000 to $1.7 million in the past 18 months or so, by reassuring anxious buyers who apprehended there were several more in the ‘famed’ series.

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