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Hirst auction breaks - sales record at Sotheby’s

by at 18/09/2008 18:35

LONDON (AP) - A sale of pickled sharks, butterfly paintings and other pieces by provocative British artist Damien Hirst has raised $198 million, silencing his doubters and defying the global economic gloom.

Sotheby's auction house said the total for the two-day sale was a record for an auction of works by a single artist.

The turmoil engulfing global financial markets did nothing to dampen prices as more than 600 prospective buyers packed the showroom for each of the three auction sessions.

"The Kingdom," a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde, sold for $17 million in the first session Monday evening. "The Golden Calf" - an embalmed calf with golden hooves and horns - fetched $18.5 million.

"Fragments of Paradise," a confection of stainless steel, glass and manufactured diamonds, sold for almost $9.4 million, five times its pre-sale estimate. Sotheby's said the total smashed the $20 million record for an auction of works of a single artist set in 1993 for 88 works by Pablo Picasso.

Hirst took a risk by offering more than 200 pieces of new work through Sotheby's rather than a gallery. He said it was a more democratic way to sell art - and it also spared him a gallery's hefty commission.

The most successful of the so-called "Young British Artists" who came to prominence in the 1990s, Hirst is famous for eye-catching works redolent of death and decay - pickled animals, rotting cows' heads, diamond-encrusted skulls.

He employs a large staff to help him make his works, and some critics had suggested his prolific output was devaluing the work.
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