As early as 1996, Damien Hirst's work drew the kind of collector's attention that earned 6 figures. Today, the world economy fails in an era of toxic mortgages and government bailouts, yet art world aficionados and financiers (who else has the cash?) line up for "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" Damien Hirst's novel debut solo exhibition consigned for auction at Sotheby's held about 200 works that brought in whopping sales of $43, 316,574 (actually, someone at the Financial Times estimated Hirst's net at nearly $200 million). And voilà! The vanguard of emerging artists for fame and gain is Damien Hirst, past winner of the Turner Prize, and the most prominent of the Young British Artists (YBAs).
Hirst's works are fantastic (truly), decadent (sine qua non), fascinating (hypnotic, even), and illative of a remorseless, pointed and wicked intellect. His absorption with death and decadence - manifested by choice of subject and use of materials, constant playfully bright schemes, that make light of dark ideas that are themselves excessive, in concept and execution, and consequential work - become visual puns, fodder for common humor. Mentored by Charles Saatchi, the art collector's collector (a god, in his own art world right, maybe), Hirst's future, you might say, was as assured as if he'd been born with a silver spoon (just look at that chart, above).
So why are we writing about this artist? Yes, his concepts are bizarre, his works are many things to many people, but most importantly, for the obviously privileged and rarefied few who fell in step to the Sotheby's hammer on 16 September, Hirst's works are immensely, and profitably, collectible!
(Image: Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1992. Tiger shark, glass, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution; 213 x 518 cm., Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)