A piece of art by Damien Hirst has set the new record for a single item at auction. The piece entitled ‘Oh Shit’ fetched £2.3bn after frantic bidding by an anonymous investor. The work, which features a Merrill Lynch employee suspended in a tank of formaldehyde secured the highest price yet paid for a single piece of banking history.
It was believed that it was purchased for a private exhibit, and is unlikely to be put on display to the public or auditors, in the immediate future. ‘Pay Day’, a piece comprised of empty envelopes and which was expected to make between 4,000 to 5,000 people happy, eventually went to administrators Price Waterhouse Coopers for well over the asking price.
Art critic Mathias Van-Leer praised Hirst for his courageous decision to sell all these works from his Financial Meltdown period. ‘It is a remarkable that Damien has been able to command these sort of prices,’ he said, ‘especially as we are seeing a lot of similar pieces suddenly coming onto the market.’
The success of the Hirst auction is in contrast to the fortunes of artists and brothers Jake and Dinos Lehman who were unable to find a buyer for their latest work, ‘White Elephant’. This has led some art experts to claim that the market will be unlikely to secure the same sort of money for other historic banking institutions, and some predict that the bubble will burst sooner rather than later. Daily Telegraph art critic Mark Walker-Brice is one of the sceptical voices; ‘I mean we’ve seen this all before, haven’t we? I mean, this is just Northern Rock Bank Clerk, given a transatlantic sheen and passed off as the next big thing.’
Meanwhile, Hirst’s agent said he was delighted at the amount raised by the sale of his latest work. ‘Although we’re a bit worried about where he should deposit the cheque.’