Shark for sale – who will buy my pickled shark?

Published On September 16, 2008 | By Joe Gordon | Animation

Credit crunch? Not relevant to some art collectors apparently and after yesterday’s auction at Sotheby’s I don’t think Damien Hirst will be worrying about money either. Dispensing with the more normal route for artists to sell their work via a gallery or agent the controversial artist went direct to Sotheby’s with a collection of his work and, presumably, then straight to the bank because the total sales came to some £70 million (around $125 million US, according to the BBC). The famous – or infamous – tiger shark in formaldehyde alone went for £9.6 million. That kind of puts the Dave Gibbons Watchmen original page on Ebay I mentioned yesterday into perspective…

Damien Hirts pickled shark in a jar.jpg

Some artists have said that Hirst’s approach is purely motivated by commercial, monetary concerns and not artistic, he has commented that some galleries and dealers can be “snobby and elitist.” Well, I wouldn’t argue that point – while many galleries make a serious point about trying to appeal to a diverse audience and inviting in people who might not normally go to an art gallery many do retain a superior air which can be intimidating to a lot of people and make them feel unwelcome. But given he’s showing and selling his work only to the mega-rich collectors I don’t think he can then defend his move by saying he’s circumventing elitism – how you can make that claim while selling a pickled dead animal for millions and keep a straight face is beyond me. Actually why anyone would want to pay millions for such a thing is beyond me, but I’m not going to get into a debate over what constitutes art because we could argue that all week and we’d all still have different opinions because its a very individualistic thing. Some think his work cutting edge and challenging, some probably see their worst fears of modern art confirmed, but whatever you think of his work (should I say ‘his’ work since much of it is carried out by assistants?) he’s certainly taken a leaf out of PT Barnum’s book when it comes to self promotion. On which note frankly I am surprised not to have seen Oli Smith and the LUC crew there trying to get him to endorse the Camden comics stall on video…

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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