Damien Hirst, the YBA worth £215 million, has allegedly been putting pressure on the major auction houses to stop selling incomplete editions of his iconic spin prints. The works were originally sold as a boxed set with original top cover painting. Several of the sets have been broken up and sold off individually. Hirst feels the work is only of value in its complete form. He originally made 68 editions of ‘In a Spin The Action of the World on Things’ boxes (4ft by 3ft), each covered in one of his spin paintings and containing 23 signed prints of spin images. But since their making, many of these components have been separated from one another.
Last month, when an Essex art dealer, John Brandler, attempted to sell two of the box-top paintings, valued around £75,000, via the auctioneers Phillips de Pury, the paintings were rejected, despite the auction house having recently handled two similar sales in the past two years. The reason given by de Pury was that one of Hirst’s ‘Representatives‘ had protested against anyone attempting to sell an In a Spin box-top without the accompanying prints. If this is true, it could spell disaster for those art dealers who own singular copies of the prints. While they would have been bought for between £2,000 and £4,000, it is possible that these prints may have now become, through Hirst’s intervention, an unreliable investment.
Hirst’s spokespeople, however, have denied such allegations, blaming a “miscommunication internally” at the auctioneers. Rather than preventing people selling what they wanted, Hirst was only concerned to ensure that buyers were aware that the prints were part of one artwork and correctly attributed.
The truth in the matter is yet to be seen. But the allegations may not be so farfetched, Hirst is known for his efforts to cash in. Once, for example, Hirst demanded that a 16-year-old student, who had used an image of his diamond-encrusted skull for an internet collage, pay him £200. In 2008, it was alleged that Hirst enlisted some of his closest business associates to increase the value of his work at a Sotheby’s auction by splashing around £40 million on the first day. If this is true, it worked, his work raising £111 million in just two days.
Such suggestion, however, are not set to tarnish Hirst’s reputation, as, next year, the Tate will be putting on an exhibition of two decades of his most important works.