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Hirst art sale beats record by Picasso

September 17, 2008|From the Associated Press

A sale of pickled sharks, butterfly paintings and other pieces by provocative British artist Damien Hirst has raised $198 million, silencing his doubters and defying the global economic gloom.

Sotheby's auction house said the total for the two-day sale was a record for an auction of works by a single artist, smashing the $20-million figure set in 1993 for 88 works by Pablo Picasso.

The turmoil engulfing global financial markets did nothing to dampen prices as more than 600 prospective buyers packed the London showroom for each of the three auction sessions. Others around the world bid by phone.

"The Kingdom," a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde, sold for $17 million in the first session Monday evening. "The Golden Calf" -- an embalmed calf with golden hooves and horns -- fetched $18.5 million.

The results are all the more startling given the fear spreading through international financial markets and the economic elite who are among modern art's major buyers. The sale came as global markets reeled from the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

"Banks fall over, art triumphs," former Royal Academy chief Norman Rosenthal told the Guardian newspaper.

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