Hirst company tops art power list on record sale

LONDON Tue Oct 14, 2008 6:51am EDT

British artist Damien Hirst poses for photographers during a preview of an upcoming auction of his work ''Beautiful Inside My Head Forever'' at Sotheby's in London September 8, 2008. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

British artist Damien Hirst poses for photographers during a preview of an upcoming auction of his work ''Beautiful Inside My Head Forever'' at Sotheby's in London September 8, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - Science, the company behind contemporary artist Damien Hirst, topped ArtReview's annual power list on Tuesday, in recognition of the Briton's ongoing appeal to collectors despite financial market chaos.

It is the second time that Hirst or his company have topped the global ranking, which in 2008 also features a woman on her own in the top 10 for the first time.

Kathy Halbreich broke into the male-dominated world of contemporary art, coming third in this year's list of 100 names after she was appointed associate director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

But of around 30 artists in the ranking this year, only three were female.

"In the commercial sector, women tend to be well represented," said Laura Allsop at the ArtReview magazine.

"Institutionally they also do quite well. The problem stood out in terms of artists -- there are 20 or 25 male artists and only three female artists in the list."

Second in the list was U.S. collector, gallery owner and perennial art powerhouse Larry Gagosian, fourth was Britain's director of the Tate collection Nicholas Serota and fifth was Swiss gallerist Iwan Wirth.

Hirst, 43, shook up the contemporary art world last month by becoming the first major artist to sell works directly at auction rather than through the traditional, less transparent route of dealers and galleries.

The two-day sale of over 200 new works at Sotheby's in London fetched 111 million pounds ($193 million), a record for an auction dedicated to one artist.

Hirst ensured higher profits than selling through a dealer, who he said took 50 percent of the proceeds. The auction also added to his considerable personal fortune, which the Sunday Times recently reported to be worth a billion dollars.

"In a year that began with the setting of new auction records for contemporary art and ended in global financial crisis, Hirst overshadowed and outshone," ArtReview said.

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS TUMBLE

Although values for high-end contemporary art have continued to rise despite the crisis gripping world markets, financial institutions took a tumble in the ranking this year.

UBS and Deutsche Bank, longtime art sponsors, fell out of the Power 100 rating altogether in 2008, having been ranked 62 and 63 respectively in 2007.

"In another sign of troubled times, a 'flight to quality' has seen the stock of the most established artists rising strongly," ArtReview said.

Lucian Freud, who set an auction record for a painting by a living artist when "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" fetched $33.6 million in New York in May, made it on to the list at number 66. Jasper Johns, a veteran of the list, also broke into the top 10.

Commercially astute artists moved up the Power 100, with Japan's Takashi Murakami jumping 61 places to 28 due to his "superbrand in hot pursuit of Damien Hirst's business model."

Banksy, the anonymous but highly sought-after British graffiti arist, appeared at 63, the first street artist to make it on to the list.

Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, reported to have bought the record-breaking Freud, and his girlfriend Daria Zhukova, who recently opened a gallery in Moscow, made it to number 54.

French billionaire Francois Pinault, who owns Christie's auctioneers, dropped from number one to number eight this year.

"One of criteria we use is the way they've influenced art over the last 12 months," said ArtReview editor Mark Rappolt. "He's been a bit quieter, although he has bought a lot of stuff for a lot of money."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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