On Thursday, a 10 foot wide steel cabinet sold for 9.65 million pounds, or 19.2 million dollars at the Southeby’s Contemporary Art sale in London, making it the most expensive piece of artwork sold at auction by a living artist. The cabinet, titled “Lullaby Spring” was produce by artist Damien Hirst in 2002 and contained 6,136 handcrafted and individually painted pills. It is one of a collection of stainless steel cabinets which are an allegory for the four seasons. It was expected to sell for up to four million pounds, but an anonymous collector was willing to go much higher. As a result, the piece beat the previous record of 17.4 million dollars for a work by Jasper Johns which sold at Christie’s in New York last month.

Hirst has been gaining popularity since 1988 when he was still a student at Goldsmiths College. He curated the popular ‘Freeze’ exhibition that year which launched the careers of several young British artists as well as his own. After graduating in 1989, he has become the mot famous living British artist besides David Hockney. In 1991, he showed a piece titled In and Out of Love in which he filled a gallery with hundreds of tropical butterflies, some of which came out of the monochrome canvases on the wall. That same year, he became a hit with The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Here, he displayed a tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde which was shown at the Saatchi Gallery. He has three groups of art including paintings, cabinet sculptures, and glass tank pieces. His paintings are divided into spot and spin paintings reduced to basic elements in order to simplify his abstract work. His spin paintings are created on a spinning table so that each work is created through centrifugal force. His cabinets include displayed collections of surgical tools and pill bottles on the shelves. The tank pieces often include dead and dissected animals that are preserved and suspended in death.

This sale was one of many important sales at Southeby’s. Other large sales included a 1978 self-portrait by Francis Bacon which sold for 21.58 million pounds, nearly double its expected price of 12 million pounds. In total, the Sotheby’s sale including works by Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko was estimated to bring in 57 million pounds but raised 72.43 million pounds. At the same time, Christie’s, Southeby’s rival, had a record week for art sales in Europe with a 237 million pound total.


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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070622/ennew_afp/lifestylebritainauctionart and http://www.artchive.com/artchive/H/hirst.html.

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