The huge sum of $125 million for animal-loving British artist Damien Hirst's London Sotheby's auction set a new record for a sale of a single artist's work, which should be a relief for the contemporary art market. "Golden Calf," a bull suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, sold for $18 million and also became the highest price of a Hirst sold ever. "The Kingdom," a shark also preserved in formaldehyde, sold for $17 million. But it isn't good news for everyone in the art world. What's really significant about the sale is that Hirst is selling over two hundred of his works to Sotheby's directly. This cuts his dealer completely out of a commission, which may be great money for Hirst and the art market, but is a bad precedent to set for gallerists—all the time they spent supporting young artists, only to be abandoned when they hit big.
"Jay Jopling, Mr Hirst’s London dealer with whom he has worked for nearly 20 years, and a team from Larry Gagosian, his New York dealer, sat in prominent places in two rows at the centre of the auction room. Their support came despite the fact that they had been cut out altogether from the Sotheby’s auction and only learned about it in May when news of the sale was about to be made public. At the time Mr Gagosian told Frank Dunphy, Mr Hirst’s manager: “It sounds like bad business to me. It’ll be confusing to collectors. It’s a bad move.”