A Buyer’s Guide To Damien Hirst

Written by - Lucy Howie
Sanctum Altar by Damien HirstSanctum Altar © Damien Hirst 2009)

If you are in the market to buy a Damien Hirst print, here are a few pieces of advice before you start your search, to make sure you find the right piece at the right price.

Looking to sell a Hirst print? Read our dedicated Damien Hirst Sellers Guide.

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. He started making prints 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.

While some editions can sell for six-figure sums at auctions, others remain accessible to newer collectors. 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, 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.

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.

Sanctum Altar by Damien HirstSanctum Altar © Damien Hirst 2009)

What types of Damien Hirst prints are for sale?

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 woodcut spot prints and butterfly etchings, to screen-printed editions of the diamond skull and foil-blocked butterflies, skulls 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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

In every case, paperwork proving ownership and history should always be provided by the seller. Purchasing your print or original work through a reputable broker or auction house is also highly recommended. While many serious collectors may have works available, it is important to involve a third party to authenticate the work’s value and mediate the sale for added protection. If you need a specialist to authenticate your Hirst print, contact MyArtBroker and we can manage this process for you.

Mickey Mouse by Damien HirstMickey Mouse © Damien Hirst 2012)

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, however this will come at a cost.

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.

Where can I buy a Damien Hirst print?

Prints by Hirst can be found easily through auction houses, private dealers or brokers, such as MyArtbroker. Bear in mind you will pay more when you buy via a highstreet 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.

H5-8 Savoy by Damien HirstH5-8 Savoy © Damien Hirst 2018)

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 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 artworks, as well as help arrange shipping – so you can be confident about your investment.

Browse Damien Hirst prints for sale.

Share article