Damien Hirst timed editions: oversupplied or well-received?

Damien Hirst is an artist who continually remains in the limelight of the contemporary art scene. 

The famous artist who infamously placed a tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde as a reflection of life and death has never been shy to push the boundaries of art and in doing so, creating controversy. In large part because of this controversy and his ability to innovatively touch on universal themes of human existence, Hirst is widely regarded as a blue chip cornerstone artist among collectors worldwide. 

Over the past twenty years, Hirst has expanded his collector reach by releasing multiple edition prints of his original artworks, thereby providing works at a lower price point than the typical 7-figure that his originals command. 

Increasing accessibility further, since the 2021 release of the “Virtues”, prints are now made available through timed releases, with edition sizes determined by demand, as opposed to predetermined editions of say 50 or 100. These timed releases have resulted in the whopping emergence of 15,333 “Empresses” (2022), and over 4,000 “Seascapes” editions (full series title: “Where the Land meets the Sea”, 2023).

What are the market implications of these timed releases? Have they been well-received by the market and hold value or are there signs of oversupply?

We let data tell the story.

The argument for well-received

The first argument for why the editions would hold value stems from Damien Hirst’s reputation and standing as one of the most well known and recognised contemporary artists currently active. His latest print release, “Secrets”, just closed its timed sales release, while his La Coste Chateau takeover opens its doors on the 2nd of March 2024. Every few months, there has been a new project released by the artist. The institutional acclaim, as found in world-leading collections like Tate or MoMA with frequent solo shows, combined with continuous market appearances means that Hirst remains appealing on the market. This sustained interest not only solidifies Hirst's value retention on the secondary market but also enhances his overall liquidity.

One look at the performance of the “Virtues” paints a clear picture. Despite there being almost 7,500 prints in circulation, the sell-through ratio (i.e. the percentage of lots at auction that sell) stands at 95%, indicating solid market interest in the series. Not to mention, recent lots at the beginning of 2024 hold strong at around £10,000 so if you bought one at the release, the return would have been about 4x. The “Virtues” have so far been the best performing of the timed release print series. 

Additionally, the desirability of later print series has shown no signs of faltering. Despite the relatively timid market interest and auction performance of the “Empresses” (see our full deep dive here) over 4,000 prints were sold in the 12-work series of “Where Land meets the Sea.”

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