The most infamous YBA, Damien Hirst, has shocked the art world again. In a long-time partnership with HENI, Hirst has just released The Beautiful Paintings, an AI-driven limited series which invites collectors to create a unique and personalised version of Hirst’s famous Spin Paintings. This release has yielded $20,994,000 over nine days, demonstrating triumphant success. This result attests to the current preoccupation and development of AI-driven technology and Hirst’s controversial yet unprecedented artistic appeal.
Damien Hirst is an artist who is never far from the spotlight and has been rewriting the rules of art marking since first discovered by marketing mogul and renowned contemporary art collector Charles Saatchi. Although certain news headlines can damage an artist’s market, the more controversial or bizarre the news headings read, seem to work in Hirst’s favour.
Last year in October 2022, Hirst made headlines amongst all art and news publications, including TheArtNewspaper, as he commenced the final stage of his NFT project, The Currency, launched in 2021 in collaboration with HENI. In his London gallery, Hirst began burning his original artworks for those who opted to trade a physical piece of art for a Non-Fungible Token (NFT).
As the art market entered 2023, it wasn’t long before Hirst made headlines again as he ingeniously continued dismantling the boundaries between tech & art. On the 31st of March, Hirst announced an additional collaboration with HENI, The Beautiful Paintings, which returns attention to his controversial yet worthwhile question, what determines the value of an artwork? Are artworks better served as an investment? Or a passion asset?
Learn more about the undeniable success of Hirst’s latest project with Heni here.
Furthermore, a truly uncanny coincidence with the launch announcement of The Beautiful Paintings, on the same date late in the evening, a woman reportedly lost control of her vehicle in Florida, driving her Rolls Royce into the back garden of hedge-fund manager and art collectors Steven and Lisa Tananbaum - crashing into a Damien Hirst sculpture titled, “Sphinx” (2017) knocking it off its plinth. The statue is valued at 3 million USD.
Damien Hirst is one of the most successful multidisciplinary artists of his generation. His print sales, which have been popular with collectors since the early 1990s, have contributed to his lucrative and burgeoning market over the last five years.
The complete set of H9 The Virtues sold at Phillips (London) in 2022 for £151,200 (fees included). These works were widely popular when first released by HENI in February 2021. Single works from this series continue to circulate the market, but complete sets are highly sought after. Since these works were released in 2021, 14 complete sets have hit the secondary market, with only three unsold. The average selling price for a complete set is £80,000.
With complete sets further proving their demand, The Dead (complete set, unsigned) is Hirst’s second highest-priced sale achieving £102,500 (fees included) at Sotheby’s (London) in 2018. The individual pieces of this series are popular, as the skull is a classic and recurring motif in Hirst's work. However, complete sets of this series are rare to the market and even unsigned sets, such as this, sell for competitive prices.
This sale marks the auction debut for H6 The Aspects (complete set) and, its solo appearance on the market to date. The complete series sold for £93,750 (fees included) during Sotheby’s (London) Made In Britain sale during September 2020. 2020 was a pivotal year for Hirst's print market, which instigated the start of an upward trajectory in sales turnover.
In A Spin, The Action Of The World On Things, Volume II is a complete set of 14 etchings sold by Sotheby’s (London) in 2021. This sale marks the first appearance of this series on the secondary market since 2016. The set sold for £88,200 (fees included).
Mantra was created in 2011 and exemplifies Hirst’s interest in butterflies as a universal trigger and theme. Mantra was sold by Phillips (London) in 2021 reaching £88,200 (fees included) against a £50,000 high estimate.
As Hirst continues dismantling traditional artistic boundaries with his boundless ingenuity, his creations from newer and older series continue circulating the art market. Read more about Hirst’s recent auction appearances in our 20th/21st Century March report and our Prints and Multiples auction highlights.
New York Art Critic Jerry Saltz once referred to Damien Hirst as “the Elvis of the English art world”. Hirst is both an artist and a lucrative brand, which is phenomenal given the controversy that his art and exhibitions have provoked. For example, when Hirst first unveiled his giant shark, known to the art world as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, at Saatchi Gallery in London, 1992, he became a sensation for his so-called “bad art”.
Hirst’s shock value did not end with animals floating in formaldehyde. He continued to disturb critics with memento-mori themed works including a human diamond-encrusted skull, works made with dead butterflies arranged on canvas, and mechanically produced spot paintings with a team of assistants. As each of his productions receive a certain amount of backlash, they also receive equal success. The first issue of Frieze magazine was published in 1991, and none other than one of Damien Hirst’s butterfly works was the front cover. Society seems quick to divulge what they don’t like, yet slower to admit what they do publicly. Whatever preference for Hirst’s works, they are undeniably astounding, which few artists manage to achieve.
Given the cooling of NFT sales in 2022, -10% from the previous year according to the UBS Art Market Report 2023, buyers are likely waiting to see what the rest of 2023 has in store for NFT sales. However, as we’ve seen with the recent success of The Beautiful Paintings, Hirst is a force to be reckoned with.
Also, without discounting the series title, these works are not paintings but Giclée prints/NFTs generated by AI. With this launch, Hirst has released yet another unique series of works that speaks to the current preoccupation with Art & Tech and simultaneously proves the appeal of his works as collectables and lucrative assets.
Using data pulled from our bespoke algorithm that tracks over 48,500 auction histories & our own private sales data - head to our MyPortfolio dashboard to find out more - Hirst’s print market over the last five-year period is thriving. Except for a minor slip, -1% in 2018 from Year-on-year (YoY), our data reveals an upward trajectory in sales value and healthy increases in YoY percentages.
Over the past five years, it is evident that the volume of sales and Hirst’s continued productivity on the market is driving profits. This is unsurprising, considering his recent success with The Beautiful Paintings on the primary market, which ultimately results in these works circulating the secondary market and driving both sales volume and value upwards.
Another trend, evident from Hirst’s top five best-selling prints listed above, is the interest his market is seeing in complete sets, which have outperformed individual print sales by over 40% over the last five-year period. This is a trend we have also seen in Andy Warhol’s print market, suggesting collectors are drawn to acquiring series intended to be displayed together. To learn more about investment potential in complete sets, read our comprehensive Ultimate Print Market Review available for free.
Consider the following stats of Hirst’s market from 2022 versus 2017:
- Market size in sales value: +143%
- Sales volume: +95%
- Average Selling Price (ASP): +25%
These positive indicators push the ASP compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of the five-year period to 4.54%. With this percentage, one can assume that if a print was bought for the ASP in 2017, they could expect an average return of £2,400. Notwithstanding, we emphasise that yielded returns within the art market are subject to change and are primarily dependent on trends, demands, specific series, and socio-economic conditions.