Can Damien Hirst do no wrong? The charitable (Red) Auction the British artist spearheaded at Sotheby’s New York on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2008, totaled a beneficent $42,584,300 -- including a buyer’s premium of 10 percent to cover administrative costs -- with 82 of the 83 lots finding buyers. The total is well above the presale estimate of $21 million-$29 million. The sale set new auction records for 17 artists, including Marc Quinn ($605,000), Banksy ($1,870,000), Howard Hodgkin ($792,000), Keith Tyson ($440,000) and Bernar Venet ($297,000).
The star-studded evening was launched by the musician Bono, who co-organized the sale, with an a capella rendition of All You Need Is Love. Among the celebrities in the room were Queen Noor, John McEnroe, Martha Stewart, Dennis Hopper, Michael Stipe, Ziyi Zhang, Ed Burns and Christy Turlington, who purchased Francesco Clemente’s Red Flower on Scorched Earth for $170,500, more than double the presale high estimate of $70,000. We like fashion models with art collections!
The sale’s top lot was Hirst’s Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way (2007), a slim pill cabinet of stainless steel filled with HIV antiretroviral drugs, which sold for $7,150,000, a hair above its presale high estimate. The buyer, according to the Baer Faxt, was White Cube, the London gallery that helped give Hirst his start.
Hirst contributed seven works to the sale, which all told sold for a spectacular $19,085,000. Five of the top ten were Hirst works. Hirst’s red dot painting, Bromphenol Red (2007), sold for $2,640,000 (est. $1,000,000-$1,500,000), and his red heart-shaped butterfly painting, All You Need Is Love, sold for $2,420,000 (est. $1,000,000-$1,500,000). The red Hirst spin painting, titled Beautiful Red Spin Painting (2007), went for $1,815,000.
According to the Baer Faxt, Bono was the buyer of three works -- Matthew Barney’s sexy New Sun (2007), a photo of a female diver emerging from the water with a mouthful of pearls ($137,500); Robert Rauschenberg’s 1991 all-red painting of the Iodine Temple on a four-foot-square sheet of enameled aluminum ($220,000); and Sean Scully’s subtle Los Light 02.07 (2007) -- done in tones of gray and blue, rather than red -- for $715,000.
The remaining auction records were set for Peter Blake ($418,000), Rachel Howard ($132,000), Chéri Samba ($71,500), Malick Sidibe ($22,000), Seydou Keîta ($27,500), Georges Lilanga ($13,200), David Bailey ($63,800), Carsten Höller ($198,000), Michael Joo ($143,000), Tadao Ando ($110,000) and Gelitin ($18,700). The sale represented the first auction appearances for works by Howard, Joo, Ando and Gelitin.
Proceeds of the sale go to the United Nations Foundation to support HIV/AIDS relief programs in Africa conducted by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
For complete, illustrated results, see Artnet’s signature Fine Arts Auctions Report