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Hirst Counts the Dots, or at Least the Paintings [NYTimes June 11, 2013]

Hirst Counts the Dots, or at Least the Paintings [NYTimes June 11, 2013]

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Published by artvest
Damien Hirst’s spot paintings — some with dots about the size of pinholes, others 60 inches across — have long been celebrated, and disdained, for a certain anonymous, machinelike industrial uniformity...For buyers, dealers and auction houses, the prospect of an unlimited supply was a complication...“He needs to regain the trust of the marketplace,” said Jeff B. Rabin, a co-founder of Artvest Partners, an art investment advisory firm.
Damien Hirst’s spot paintings — some with dots about the size of pinholes, others 60 inches across — have long been celebrated, and disdained, for a certain anonymous, machinelike industrial uniformity...For buyers, dealers and auction houses, the prospect of an unlimited supply was a complication...“He needs to regain the trust of the marketplace,” said Jeff B. Rabin, a co-founder of Artvest Partners, an art investment advisory firm.

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Damien Hirst’s Spot Prices
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Hirst Counts the Dots, or atLeast the Paintings
 Andrew Testa for The New York Times
Damien Hirst in London in 2011 with one of his spot paintings. How many of them there are has been a mystery, until now.
ByGRAHAM BOWLEYPublished: June 11, 2013
Damien Hirst’s spot paintingssome w ith dots about thesize of  pinholes, others 60 inches across — have long been celebrated, anddisdained, for a certain anonymous, machinelikeindustrial uniformity.But since his first spot paintingsappeared, in the mid-1980s,something of a mystery has grown: just how many are there?Mr. Hirst has said he painted the firstfew dozen. The others he left mainly toa coterie of assistants, who, it seemed,could make them ad infinitum.For buyers, dealers and auctionhouses, the prospect of an unlimited supply was acomplication. A flooded market might affect the paintings’future value — not a small worry when they can cost asmuch as $3.4 million.“Even art market professionals like myself don’t know theexact count,” said Koji Inoue, a Christie’s specialist who isin charge of its evening sales.Now Mr. Hirst’s London company Science Ltd. will finally provide a definitive number.
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Workers installing “Bromonucleic Acid,” one of Damien Hirst’s spotpaintings, at the Gagosian gallery inNew York last year.
This fall his publisher,Other Criteria, will release a book, acatalogue raisonné, that will show that there are exactly 1,365 spot paintings.“All paintings are in the book,” Jude Tyrrell, an official atScience Ltd., said in an e-mail.For Mr. Hirst, the inventory is but another example of how,as an artist and businessman, he has often sailed againstthe winds. At a time when experts increasingly fear puttingout catalogs and authenticating art, lest they be sued by owners whose works don’t make the grade and are left out,Mr. Hirst, 48, is creating a book that could define what is —and what is not — an authentic Hirst spot painting.The catalog, beyond providing scholarly luster, could well boost prices for the paintings, which in the past 18 monthshave sold for $53,000 to $1.7 million, by reassuring buyers who suspected there were many more in the series. In AprilThe Art Newspaper reportedthat the catalog would include around 1,400 spot paintings. It could also dismay any forgers who think the spot works are particularly conducive to fakery. (In Marcha man was indicted in New York after being accused of trying to sell five fake Hirsts, includingthree fake spot limited-edition prints. He has pleaded not guilty.)But a catalog could draw new attention to questions like whether those made by hisassistants are of equal value. And while such a catalog is usually a sign that an artist orscholars are drawing a final line under a specific body of work, the spot paintings are still being made, said James Kelly, the director of Science Ltd. “Damien is working on somespot paintings with very small spots, including a painting with one million spots, which will take a number of years to complete,” he said in an e-mail.Mr. Kelly added that Mr. Hirst would eventually follow this catalog with a completecatalogue raisonné for his entire body of work. Mr. Hirst did not respond to requests forcomment for this article.For many experts, this catalog — along with a flurry of activity last year that included acommission for the London Olympics, a retrospective at Tate Modern in London andexhibitions of more than 300 spot paintings at 11 galleries in 8 cities— seems like an effortto turn around a career that rose to dizzying heights until 2008, when prices, and theartist’s reputation, took something of a plunge.“He needs to regain the trust of the marketplace,” said Jeff B. Rabin, a co-founder of  Artvest Partners, an art investment advisory firm. “It seems the catalog is one measure hecould perhaps take to start to rectify some of the ill feeling out in the marketplace.”Mr. Hirst has often been a polarizing figure in the art world. As part of a 1990s wave of  young British artists, known as the Y.B.A.’s, he produced work — from a dead shark swimming in formaldehyde to a platinum human skull paved with 8,601 diamonds — thatoften provoked outrage as well as mystified shrugs.Brought to prominence by the British advertising executive and art collector CharlesSaatchi, with whom his relations, by many accounts, later grew strained, Mr. Hirst becameas famous for his self-promoting style as for his work. He flouted art world custom in 2008 when he bypassed dealers and staged an auction of 223 pieces of his own work atSotheby’s in London that September. The auction, which took place even as financialmarkets were crumbling, was wildly successful and helped make him one of the richestartists in the world, with a fortune said to be more than $300 million.
 
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