Since he burst onto the market in the late ’80s as part of the controversial YBA (Young British Artist) group, Damien Hirst has been racking up headlines and record prices for his work. Despite this success his editions remain accessible to newer collectors, and here we guide you through some key points to consider before buying.
Is Damien Hirst a good investment?
While Hirst had his heyday back in the ’90s and the 2000s, when he couldn’t keep up with the demand for his work, his work is still widely collected today. The market may have slowed a little but Hirst prints have become part of the new canon, and no collection of contemporary art from the last few decades is complete without one.
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, suggesting that the market for his editions is stronger than ever, and more robust than even that of his original paintings.
Which Hirst print should you buy?
Before buying a work by Damien Hirst it’s important to familiarise with the various styles and series that have shaped his prolific output over the years. From the woodcut dot prints to the butterfly etchings or the screen printed skull, there is a lot to choose from. Certain prints will command higher prices due to their edition size, popularity, rarity and provenance. All these factors should be taken into account when considering an artwork, however the most important thing is whether you love it and would like to live with it. While art can be a secure investment it is also something that can enrich our lives and those of future generations.
Perhaps the most sought after of Hirst’s prints are the Spot works that are based on his Pharmaceutical series of paintings. These tend to be very popular on the secondary market along with his homage to Pop Art and Mickey Mouse, and the Butterfly series – whether it be a print where the butterfly wings are arranged to appear like the inside of a kaleidoscope, or one of his more recent editions – a tribute to the NHS created during 2020s lockdown.
Similarly his Spin series, based on a number of paintings from the ’90s and 2000s, continue to be popular among collectors as well as his somewhat macabre series of prints entitled For the Love of God which features the human skull he covered with crystals for an exhibition at the White Cube in 2007.
How can you be certain a Hirst is genuine?
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. If you’re buying through a reputable broker or auction house you should have nothing to fear but it’s still important to know the value of correct documentation which can prove the provenance of a work.
If you’re still in doubt you can consult the Hirst Authentication Committee (HIAC) which works closely with the artist to provide collectors with a ‘cost-effective and efficient process with which to verify the authenticity of his prints and artworks, as well as aiming to clarify confusion over artworks mistakenly attributed to him.’ Authentication sessions are held approximately six times a year.
What about the condition of the 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, however this will come at a cost.
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.
How much does a Hirst print cost?
As mentioned above, rarity, condition, provenance and edition size all play a part in the value of a print by Hirst. On the secondary market prices can span anything from under $2,000 to much more than $50,000 for an artist’s proof from a highly sought after Spot painting series such as Pharmaceuticals.
Collectors are advised to familiarise themselves with what’s on offer and to make enquiries across the board in order to get an impression of the current state of the market. In this way you can be assured of paying a good price for a work.
Primary market releases are not common, however occasionally the artist will promote a new series for charity – such as the NHS rainbow series in 2020 – that can be a good opportunity for first time collectors to invest.
Where do I buy a Hirst print from?
Prints by Hirst can be found easily through auction houses or private dealers and brokers. Bear in mind you will pay more when you buy via a hughstreet gallery, and most auction houses will change you 25% on the hammer, plus VAT. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned collector, it’s important to buy from a trusted source. Always take expert guidance on the value, condition and provenance of a piece – something that a professional seller will be able to offer. If you’d like to find out more, read our Guide to Auction versus Private Sale.
If you are ready to spend money on a work by Hirst, make sure you’ve done your homework. This includes researching a reputable dealer, broker or auction house, checking a piece’s condition report and provenance. Most importantly of all, make sure you like it – the best investment is something that will bring you and others pleasure for years to come. And if you’d like any more advice on how to buy a Hirst, just let us know. Our brokers’ expertise when it comes to Damien Hirst is second to none.