Damien Hirst is a name every online art dealer loves to deal in. Few contemporary artists have pushed the boundaries as much as a man whose works range from cows and sharks in formaldehyde to a non-fungible token project last year, which led to thousands of his originals being burned to ensure the uniqueness of their electronic copies.
These are just a few of the wide range of paintings and sculptures Hirst has produced down the years, some of which are located in his gallery in Southwark, while others have been picked up by collectors around the world.
It all means that Damien Hirst’s works are highly sought after when they become available for sale, with the top auction houses being regularly involved in the process.
The latest case has seen an artwork called I Love You More Than Words Can Say being sold by Sotheby’s for £508,000. The original estimate had been £300,000-500,000, so the winning buyer was evidently willing to nudge that little bit higher to land the prize.
It has a background of a large green area apparently seen through a porthole, which may be assumed to be the background of a grassy meadow, with 23 butterflies flitting around. In contrast to past Hirst works showing animals suspended in synthetic resin, this is a clear depiction of the creatures flitting around in their natural habitat.
The most prominent of all is a large Blue Morpho butterfly, which is both one of the largest species of butterfly in the world and the one with the brightest blue markings. Its depiction highlights the fact that the butterflies in the picture are accurately represented; a wealthy entomologist could happily have bought the picture knowing the different kinds of butterfly would not be out of scale.
While the style may stand out from other Hirst artworks, the price is relatively modest, at least in comparison with the highest prices his art has commanded.
The largest figure commanded for a Hirst work was Lullaby Spring, a work that sold at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $19.3 million, which in today’s rate of conversion would be close to £16 million. This was way beyond the guide price of $3-4 million.
Second to this was The Golden Calf, which Sotheby’s sold for $16.5 million in 2008, with the bullock depicted in the picture having horns and hoofs made of 18-carat gold. In third place and also sold by Sotheby’s in 2008 was the Kingdom, a shark in glass cabinet manifesting the style that brought Hirst to such prominence in the early 1990s. It sold for $15.3 million.
The rest of Hirst’s top five were Lullaby’s Winter, sold for $6.6 million at Sotheby’s in New York in 2002 and Eternity, which went for $6.3 million at an auction by Phillips.
Clearly the latest Hirst sale is not in that league, but it still goes to show that his works remain in high demand. His idiosyncratic approach to art is not for everyone, but it seems plenty are still willing to pay handsomely for his unusual and striking output.