Phillips de Pury has been scolded by Hirst's main art production company, Science, for selling "spin" paintings that were originally part of a larger work as standalone lots, according to the Art Newspaper.
So, has Science started to crack down on the sale of incomplete Hirst series? Phillips now chalks the dispute up to a "misunderstanding." A spokesperson told ARTINFO that currently, "there has been no policy change from Science or from Phillips de Pury & Company that affects in any way the selling or the value of any of these works and they are fully in agreement with us and happy for us to confirm this." The spokesperson added that, rather than forbidding the sale of the individual pieces in question, Science had simply requested that Phillips clarify "that the work was originally part of a complete portfolio" in their catalogue.
The works in question are from a 68-edition series called "In a spin, the action of the world on things," produced by Hirst in 2002. Each edition consists of a box of 23 etchings, topped with a lid that is itself a unique spin painting screenprinted with the work's title. According to a review of past auction sales, the individual box-top painting is worth less than an entire edition of etchings (plus the painted lid), but is worth more than any of the etchings sold by themselves.
All three of the major auction houses have sold work from the series as individual lots. According to the Art Sales Index, a single etching from one of the editions sold at Sotheby's London in March 2010 for £2,275 ($3,430). Another sold at Christie's South Kensington in September 2009 for £3,750 ($6,550). Many others have been offered up at auction over the last few years, but the majority have been bought in. By contrast, both the box-top paintings on their own and full box sets have sold well at Christie's, Sotheby's, and Phillips, fetching $35,000-120,000 prices.
The Art Newspaper's story seems to have been touched off by an email exchange that it obtained between George O'Dell, the head of daysales in London for Phillips, and an art dealer inEssex, England, John Brandler, who was looking to sell one of the spinpaintings off the top of an "In a spin" edition box. According to TAN,O'Dell wrote to Brandler, "After a discussion with the [Hirst] studioduring our June auction, we are no longer able to sell these workswithout the accompanying prints." What exactly the misunderstanding was is not totally clear, but the practice of auctioning off the "In a spin" box sets piecemeal seems likely to continue in the future.
"Selling the work individually does not change the fact that this is still a unique original spin painting by Hirst that holds an inherent market value for what it is," the Phillips spokesperson told ARTINFO. "And we would be happy to offer the etchings for sale as a partial set should we be asked."
A complete edition of the 23 etchings can be found in the permanent collection at the Tate Modern in London.