Some art dealers worry there’ll be a serious hangover from Damien Hirst’s end-of-an-era sale of 218 artworks for $198 million in mid-September, just as Lehman Brothers was collapsing. “People who bought contemporary art are in a lot of trouble, because some of them are leveraged and need to sell,” says dealer David Nahmad. Hirst is something of a leading indicator of the contemporary-art market. If he slumps badly, it could affect other artists’ sales, too. One Chelsea dealer who has a client with four Hirsts the client is considering selling (with no takers as yet) worries that “nobody knows what a Hirst is worth.” So far, none of the September Hirsts has shown up at Christie’s or Sotheby’s. But when Sotheby’s offered two Hirsts on November 11, one didn’t sell and the other brought in $700,000, well shy of its $1.2 million low estimate.
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