It’s Beautiful Inside PR

September 24, 2008

Damien Hirst next to one of his sculptures.

Damien Hirst next to one of his sculptures.

Damien Hirst, business artist extraordinaire, has done it again.  He is always up to something crazy, but this time he has even topped himself.

Hirst has fired all his art dealers and is now taking his work to auction from now on.

Last week, Hirst broke all kinds of records at a huge auction he held at Sothebys.  According to the New York Times, Hirst auctioned off 223 works which brought in $200.7 million.  Some of the works auctioned include a tiger shark suspended in a tank of formeldehyde, his famous butterfly paintings, and his dot paintings.  The whole collection is called, “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”.

What Hirst Did

Hirst's "All You Need is Love" butterfly painting.

Hirst's "All You Need is Love" butterfly painting.

Hirst and Public Relations
Not only is Damien Hirst an extraordinary artist who is constantly innovating, but he is also a very good businessman.  One might say that Hirst is a entrepreneur artist.  His sales took a bit of slump last year, so he knew he’d have to do something different.  The decision to forego his art dealers and go straight to auction was a PR tactic in itself.  He really beefed up his clip book with that one.  Almost every major newspaper and news channel ran at least one story about it, the New York Times alone had three.  Damien Hirst was also the topic du jour of almost every blog that writes about the art world.

Moving to auction was a really good move for him.  Hirst opened himself up to audiences he wasn’t able to reach before.  Some people can be skeptical of an art dealer because they don’t know much about art.  Those same people would probably be more comfortable buying art at auction.  When you’re spending $60,000 on a sculpture you want it to be a safe purchase.  Plus, all the media attention made him known to more people than ever before.

More PR moves
Another PR tactic Hirst used was to compile his collection into a catalogue.  He then paid people to take the thing all over the world to show to prospective buyers.  Not everyone could make it to the Sotheby’s auction, so by having the catalogue shown around and letting buyers call in bids over the phone he reached almost all if not every audience he has.  By the way, according to the New York Times, the catalogue weighed five pounds and cost $160 by itself.

Hirst wasn’t just reaching out to people wealthy enough to own one of his pieces.  He extended his message to the average person and held an art show of the works to be auctioned.  According to the New York Times, the show drew in around 9,000 people which is pretty successful.

Hirst also announced that he would no longer be producing the type of work he was auctioning.  This made the work even more valuable in the eyes of collectors.  He was basically saying get it now before it’s gone forever.

The auction really worked out for him thanks to his good use of PR.  He spent months getting his message out to potential buyers and the news media.  On the first day of the auction, the street outside Sotheby’s was crawling with reporters.  In the end, he walked out with a cool $200.7 million, which is quite a feat considering the economic atmosphere in the world today.

A tip of the hat to you, Damien Hirst.



  1. Great topic! What an interesting guy. You would think with his unique type of art he wouldn’t need much PR to get the word out but, I guess that just goes to show how relevant PR is for anyone.

  2. Nice zebra:)

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