Art Market Bubble

Damien Hirst All Media 1992-2004

Damien Hirst All #17760B


At the peak of the South Sea bubble in 1720, a series of stock promoters emerged touting the shares of “bubble companies” that aimed to take advantage of high share prices. We laugh now at the prospectuses of these tawdry ventures—not least the one proposing to carry out “an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.” As the art bubble has neared its peak, the great art-entrepreneurs such as Hirst, Banksy, Prince or the Chinese artists, Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, seem increasingly like these 18th-century promoters. Not only have they pumped out identical works, but they have also sought to capture more of the value for themselves, bypassing the gallerists with whom they are obliged to share 50 per cent of sales and selling direct out of the studio or placing new works straight into auction. Five years ago it was unknown for a work of art that was only one or two years old to be sold at auction. Now this is common—the best example being the Hirst sale of over 200 new works at Sotheby’s in September.

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