Buyer & Seller Guide to Damien Hirst

Written by - Lucy Howie
For the Love Of God (Four, White) by Damien HirstFor The Love Of God (Four, White) © Damien Hirst 2011

If you are in the market to buy or sell Damien Hirst prints, here are a few pieces of advice before you take the next step.

Since he burst onto the market in the late 1980s as part of the controversial YBA (Young British Artist) group, Damien Hirst artwork has been racking up headlines and record auction prices. He started printmaking after a decade of fame, fortune and controversy with his painting and sculpture, producing his limited-edition print series — The Last Supper — in 1999, four years after winning the Turner Prize.

Steak and Kidney by Damien HirstSteak and Kidney © Damien Hirst 1999

Buying a Damien Hirst

From Butterfly prints to Spots, there is a colourful spectrum of Damien Hirst prints to buy on the market today. While Hirst had his heyday back in the 90s and the 2000s, his work is still widely collected today. The market for Hirst prints and editions occupies a middle ground in the artworld between long established markets like Andy Warhol and booming investment markets like Banksy. In terms of portfolio diversification, the Damien Hirst market is particularly strong.

Longing by Damien HirstLonging © Damien Hirst 2014

Is it worth buying a Damien Hirst print?

We asked Hirst specialist, and CEO of Eyestorm, Henrik Riis what key piece of advice he would give to a first-time collector drawn to the Hirst market…

‘It is important to think about your risk profile. If you can afford to spend £10,000 on an artwork, and it’s not the end of the world if its value drops before going up again, I would go for the Spots. These have the most traction because they define Hirst’s artistic output.’

Perhaps the most sought after of Hirst’s prints, and a good place to start when collecting, are the Spot works, based on his Pharmaceutical series of paintings. The Spots are a stand out option for first time collectors as they are iconic to the artist’s name. Hirst’s Butterfly prints and works that pay homage to Pop Art and Mickey Mouse also tend to be very popular on the secondary market due to their wide appeal and iconic status.

If you are buying into an artist for the first time, it is always better to choose artworks that define the artist’s wider output, rather than buy something that covers more experimental themes. There are trends in the market and it is a good idea to play it safe when starting your collection. For the more experienced collector, however, it makes sense to branch out into more unconventional works and deepen your collection.

Mickey Mouse by Damien HirstMickey Mouse © Damien Hirst 2016

Which Spot Prints should you buy?

The earlier the Spots, the better. The Spot print editions that hold the most value are some of the first editions like those published by Eyestorm in 2000 and those which are in pristine condition. When choosing your Spot print, or any other Hirst edition, we recommend buying editions from the earlier stages in Hirst’s career, not necessarily for sake of quality, but because they have more weight in the market - especially when it comes to reselling.

Opium by Damien HirstOpium © Damien Hirst 2000

How much are Damien Hirst prints?

When the first Spot prints were produced, they were selling for the relatively affordable price of £400 - £1,000. Over the last 4-5 years the Spot prints have taken a significant jump on the market and many now sell for between £5,000 and £15,000.

Recent years have seen Hirst’s work sell for a steady increase at auction. Over the last ten years sale results for Hirst are dominated by works estimated under £10,000, with the second largest category being £10,000-50,000. Hirst hasn’t experienced a crash like some other Urban artists as his work has gained traction over the last 20 years and auction results suggest that the market for his editions is more robust than even his original paintings.

The Cure (bright orange, orchid, air force blue) by Damien HirstThe Cure (bright orange, orchid, air force blue) © Damien Hirst 2014

What type of Hirst prints are for sale?

From woodcut Spot prints and butterfly etchings, to screen-printed editions of the diamond skull and foil-blocked butterflies and pills — Hirst’s prints come in a range of mediums, dimensions and edition sizes; some are glazed or embellished with ‘diamond dust’, sometimes over the whole surface of the artwork or in certain areas in order to add impact.

Hirst’s prints can range from editions of 50 to 1000, averaging at around 150, and authentic prints can be signed or unsigned. Typically a signed piece in a smaller edition will be more valuable but larger editions will not necessarily put buyers off when an artist is in demand.

Throughout his career, Hirst has produced both stand-alone editions and portfolio sets. Many of these portfolios have since been split and sold as individual prints — The Last Supper being a good example. In 2014, Hirst produced a print series titled The Cure, which was released as 30 individual prints as well as a complete boxed set.

The dimensions of Hirst’s prints also vary. Most are smaller than 1m x 1m. An exception to this is his 2005 editioned wallpaper panels, New Religion, where each edition is composed of six 2m x 2m panels. Edition sizes typically span from around 50 to 150, with additional artist’s proofs. There are, of course, exceptions: between 2009-15, Hirst published prints with Paul Stolper in much-smaller editions of 14 or 15. Most recently the Butterfly Rainbow and Butterfly Heartprints created to raise money for the NHS were made in editions of up to 4,150.

H7-2 Butterfly Rainbow by Damien HirstH7-2 Butterfly Rainbow © Damien Hirst 2020

How do you check the condition on a Damien Hirst print?

Before buying it’s a good idea to examine any Hirst print in a raking light which will point out any flaws in the print or sheet. Over the years paper can buckle due to changes in temperature and humidity, or become stained or faded. Most works will come with a condition report which should explain if there is any damage, and if it is not too severe you should not be put off as an expert conservator can work wonders to bring a piece back to life. You can speak to the MyArtBroker team about who they would recommend.

If you cannot view a print in person, ask the seller to provide a high-resolution photograph of the artwork — ideally without the frame and mount — so you can check for signs of damage.

Once you have purchased a print by Hirst it’s important to look after it in order to protect its value and aesthetic impact. Keep it out of direct sunlight and minimise electric light when it is not being viewed. The print should be set behind an acid free mount and UV protective glass. If unframed, prints should be stored flat and in darkness.

To Lure by Damien HirstTo Lure © Damien Hirst 2008

Where should you buy a Damien Hirst?

Provenance is the single most important aspect when you are looking where to buy your Hirst print from. If you can’t get proof of provenance, do not buy it. Buying through a reputable company, who has a good track record, is extremely important.

As Riis states, ‘buy your Hirst print from someone who can offer you provenance. If you cannot get provenance then don’t buy it. Buy it from someone with a good track record. At MyArtBroker and Eyestorm every print goes to a conservator first. If I get a print from someone, I spend between £1500-2000 in conservation and reframing. You don’t get that with auction houses.’

As with any artist who uses assistants or publishers to create his work, Hirst’s print market is susceptible to counterfeits. In 2016 auction houses and dealers saw an influx of fakes and have been on guard ever since. Many Hirst prints are signed and if you’re buying through a reputable broker or auction house you should have nothing to fear. It is still important to have the correct documentation, which can prove the provenance of a work.

Some existing Hirst prints will have been authenticated by the now defunct Hirst Authentication Committee (HIAC). Where editions have been produced with a publishing house like HENI Editions, there will be an authentication certificate.

The Dead (Westminster blue, silver gloss) by Damien HirstThe Dead (Westminster blue, silver gloss) © Damien Hirst 2009

Selling a Damien Hirst

There are now so many diverse opportunities when it comes to selling Damien Hirst art online and offline. The climate has changed drastically in the ways to sell prints as the market has become increasingly transparent. This level of transparency can be great in terms of evaluating risk but can also be overwhelming and can make decision-making more difficult in terms of when and where to sell.

How should you go about selling your Hirst print?

Always go to a specialist dealer in the market. With auction records available to view publicly as a source of information, predicting how much your Hirst print will sell for is sometimes possible, but auction estimates do not account for added costs to the seller like insurance, shipping storage and a 15% consignment fee. Speak to a specialist like our broker team for more impartial information, free of charge.

Auction estimates can provide sellers with an idea on how much their work will sell for, but often this price will not be what you end up with in your pocket. The appeal of auction sometimes lies in getting lucky with a public bidding war. This can happen when you are looking to sell an original or a one of a kind Hirst piece, where dramatic bidding wars happen when a buyer doesn’t want to miss out on a once in a lifetime sale.

This opportunity does not translate into the prints and multiples market simply because at auction, there is no incentive for buyers to enter a prolonged bidding war when the market is filled with many more opportunities to buy another editioned Hirst print within the series. Furthermore, with auction the seller has to wait a lead time on sales once they have consigned their work and this is not always optimal in a fast changing prints and multiples market when the value can change dramatically.

Selling your Hirst print through a private dealer like MyArtBroker means that you can sell your work immediately, when we know the market is right, at a good price, and without extra fees.

Unlike at auction, private sale provides an all encompassing service that works towards realising the best price for your print. This includes condition checking, conservation and deframing if needed.

H9-2 Courage by Damien HirstH9-2 Courage © Damien Hirst 2021

Can you prove your Damien Hirst is authentic?

The authentication process involves a combination of physical inspection and a historical data check. It will start with looking into historical data — did it change hands many times? The more hands the work has been through since its production, the more important the physical inspection becomes. In any case, the authentication process should never happen without specialist inspection.

Many Hirst prints will be signed, however a signature should not be considered the be all and end all of authenticity as these can be faked. In 2016 a number of fake Hirsts flooded the market, putting prospective collectors on edge until it was confirmed that these works — which came in cheap frames and without proof of provenance, but did bear a signature and the artist’s studio stamp — were counterfeits and had subsequently been removed from various sales. It can be more helpful to know that the work came from a reputable gallery, dealer or auction house as this proves the piece has been carefully examined and authenticated in the past.

Some existing Hirst prints will have been authenticated by the now defunct Hirst Authentication Committee (HIAC). Where editions have been produced with a publishing house like HENI Editions, there will be an authentication certificate. If you need a specialist to authenticate your Hirst print, contact MyArtBroker and we can manage this process for you.

All You Need Is Love Love Love by Damien Hirst 2009All You Need Is Love Love Love by Damien Hirst 2009

Has your Damien Hirst print been kept in good condition?

After provenance, condition is perhaps the most important thing prospective buyers will consider when looking for a Hirst print. Over the years prints may bear signs of wear and tear; paper can buckle, the sun can damage the colours, tape can leave a mark, and a sheet can become stained or discolored.

If a piece is not in perfect condition you can send it to an expert conservator who can flatten the paper and ensure any signs of damage are lessened or removed entirely. However, prevention is always better than cure, and it’s important to keep your artworks safe from damage by mounting them on acid free paper behind UV protective glass, keeping the temperature stable and humidity to a minimum. You should always handle and store unframed prints with care, wearing gloves and keeping them away from potential damaging agents such as light and water.

At MyArtBroker, we offer the trust and comfort that comes with meeting with a specialist personally, as well as the efficiency, transparency and ease of buying and selling online. Our brokers can assist you with buying a Hirst print from our large, global network of collectors, and also authenticate and check the condition of the artwork you’re looking to sell, as well as help arrange shipping – so you can be confident about your investment.

Pharmaceuticals by Damien HirstPharmaceuticals © Damien Hirst 2005
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