Damien Hirst will parade out a circus of pickled animals for a Sotheby’s auction in September. A new shark, a zebra, a calf with solid gold horns and hoofs, and even a unicorn are on the block along with 200 other pieces. Oliver Barker, senior international specialist at the auction house, described the new works to the Guardian as “ambitious, exquisite and incredibly powerful.”
The auction is predicted to raise £65m, comfortably setting a new world record for the artist, and blazing a trail which other artists will watch with interest, of bypassing the gallery and dealer system and going straight to auction.
They also explain how the artist has developed a lucrative connection with Sotheby’s.
Sotheby’s and Hirst have been forging an equally intense relationship. Earlier this year he joined with the singer Bono to lead the RED charity auction at Sotheby’s in New York, which raised over $42m (£21m) with donations from Banksy, Marc Quinn and Anish Kapoor, the most successful charity art auction ever. The flirting began in 2004, when Hirst sold the contents of his restaurant Pharmacy, from ash trays, wallpaper and bar stools to wall cabinet sculptures, through the auction house: after queues around the block to get into the auction, every piece sold, for £11.1m, well over double the top estimate.
Last year Hirst briefly set the auction record at Sotheby’s – £9.65m for Lullaby Spring, a medicine cabinet – for any work by a living artist. However, he was knocked off his perch within a few months by the American pop artist Jeff Koons, whose Hanging Heart sold at another Sotheby’s auction in New York for $23.6m, leaving New York dealer Richard Feigen to include both, along with Andy Warhol, on his personal list of the world’s most over-valued artists.