Damien’s skull: another Blue Arrow?
Generally, writes Ben Lewis, it isn’t possible to make close comparisons between the art market and financial markets. Recently, though, one striking case has emerged: Damien Hirst’s sale of his diamond skull (pictured, left) for the asking price of £50m. The skull was sold to a “consortium of investors” (not collectors, in other words) who plan to tour the skull around the world to increase its value. This consortium, it later emerged, included Damien Hirst. So it may be an exaggeration to say that Hirst sold the skull to himself—but not too much of one. Would this kind of thing be possible in the financial markets? Well, remember the Blue Arrow scandal. At the peak of the market in the 1980s, Natwest orchestrated an £837m share issue in recruitment company Blue Arrow. By the time the shares were to be issued, too few had been sold, so Natwest brokers covertly bought some on their own books. The ruse was uncovered and 14 individuals were prosecuted—ultimately unsuccessfully.
As the Hirst skull case suggests, prices in the art market are regularly inflated by market manipulations that could be illegal in the financial or commodities sectors. Does the art market need more stringent regulation?
Who will be the greater Dane? The recent news that Jude Law will play Hamlet as part of the Donmar Warehouse’s forthcoming west end season will have ruffled feathers at the RSC, which has just announced its own production of Shakespeare’s tragedy starring David Tennant in the lead and Patrick Stewart as Claudius. However, both companies can breathe one sigh of relief. A third production was scheduled to precede both of them at the Old Vic, and would have seen Sam Mendes returning to the London stage with Stephen Dillane as the young prince. However, Dillane has withdrawn for personal reasons and the show has been cancelled.
Demos’s French connection
Despite the globalised world we live in, we still know remarkably little about the way they do things even in very similar countries. For example, when Sarkozy swept into office with reform of the public sector as one of his objectives, it transpired that no one in Paris knew anything about the helter-skelter of reform that has been…