Art market sucks, Hirst and Prince turn to books

Damien Hirst has gotten to the point where the sound of his own voice isn't good enough – now he needs a record of his thoughts for the ages. He and fellow artist Richard Prince (who actually has some talent) discuss the pains of the art market in Requiem II, which is scheduled to be published by Other Criteria this fall. Of course, Hirst is one of the publishing house's founders, making one wonder if this is the only most effective way for him to get a book published.

If a recent interview with ArtNews is any indication, Requiem II will contain the insights you'd come to expect from an artist of Hirst's caliber. My personal favorite: "Yeah, we ain't gonna sell as much art, art shows are gonna get better now the focus shifts away from money."

Brilliant.

Notably absent, of course, is any indication of whether Hirst notified his collectors before divesting a large portion of his holdings (in his own work) nearly a year ago – or if he set himself up for a big payday ultimately at their expense (because of falling art prices).

The art market, of course, reflects the title of the Prince/Hirst publication. The amount of billionaires in the world plunged from 1,125 to 793 (which has had little effect on my life), and the Russian oligarchs who distinguished themselves from the rest of the wealthy world by dropping fantastic sums on high-profile pieces have seen half their ranks fall away (only 49 are left).

The lack of wealthy buyers has had a clear financial impact – another for the "no shit" category. Together, the New York auctions by Sotheby's (NYSE: BID), Christie's (LSE: CTG:UK) and Phillips de Pury totaled $421.2 million. More than half of it came from Christie's ($248.9 million), with Sotheby's a distant second at $160 million and Phillips barely on the map at $12 million. A year earlier, the total for these three art auction houses was $1.6 billion. Auction sales for the spring season fell by more than 70%.

If you look hard enough, though, you can find signs of life in the art market. Christie's and Sotheby's have had a few recent successes ... if you measure by sales relative to pre-sale estimates rather than the money that came in 12 months earlier. Some high-profile pieces are moving, and collectors are bargain hunting. But, the art market is still ailing, and it will probably take several ears for the situation to turn.

And, only if we're really lucky, Damien Hirst will stick to books and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

Source - http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2009/08/03/art-market-sucks-hirst-and-prince-turn-to-books/

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