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Damien Hirst’s Dead Animals Bring In $200 Million

Does anyone ... have any idea ... what's happening?

Money-printing taxidermist Damien Hirst unloaded another $74 million worth of dead animals yesterday, bringing the total take for his two-day dealer-bypassing "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" auction at Sotheby's to a record-setting $200.7 million, the biggest-ever sale of a single artist's work (the previous record holder was Picasso, who took in a measly $20 million when 88 of his pieces were auctioned in 1993). Tuesday's big sellers included The Dream, a unicorn (a horse with a horn, anyway) preserved in a steel tank filled with formaldehyde, which went for $4.1 million. Also, several of Hirst's paper drawings beat their estimates despite the fact that they contained no bits of expired mammals.

Of course, there are haters. Since Hirst sold his work through Sotheby's and not his usual dealers, he won't give up the standard 50 percent commission typically paid to galleries. And, in the wake of his success, other high-profile artists — even though they likely won't be able to produce in such large quantities — are expected to sell single works like this, which could upend traditional art-market economics. Oh, also, Charles Thomson, founder of the Stuckism art movement to promote figurative art over conceptual art, surmises "the art world has gone stark raving bonkers" and is offering his own dead shark in a tank for a bargain price of $1 million.

Bull Market for Hirst in Sotheby’s 2-Day Sale [NYT]
British artist Hirst bucks financial downturn with record auction [AFP]
Related: The Gist: Damien Hirst’s ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’ Sale

Photo: Getty Images