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OTTERY: Hirst sketch tops ‘record-breaking’ sale after auction house break-in

Friday, 24 January 2014

An original sketch by internationally renowned artist Damien Hirst has sold for more than five times its estimated price in a record-breaking sale at Ottery Auction Rooms – days after the building was broken into by burglars.
Preparations for the Auction Rooms’ Antique and Decorative Fine Art Sale on Thursday of last week (January 16th), in which the unique Hirst artwork was to go under the hammer, were disrupted overnight on Tuesday (January 14th), when thieves gained entry to the building on Finnimore Industrial Estate and made off with around 150 items of silver and gold.
A number of glass cabinets were smashed in the process.
Despite the difficulties caused by the break-in, the auction went ahead as planned, with the Hirst drawing being sold to a private buyer for £2,700 – more than five times the valuer’s original estimate of £300 to £500.
A 20th century Monroe calculating machine also sold for £2,500 at the auction, in one of the most successful sales that principal valuer David Sumner has been involved in.
Mr Sumner said: “We had put a conservative estimate on the Hirst sketch of around £500, but I thought it could go for closer to £1,000. There was lot of buzz about it, and the item received good publicity. It was a fantastic result.”
Mr Hirst dedicated the 22cm by 27cm sketch to the housekeeper at Chanters House, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s former residence, when he visited Ottery St Mary for the Tar Barrels event in 2001.
The hand-drawn sketch shows a map of Europe on the face of a cube, with a message that reads: “For Col, it’s a strange world. Love, Damien Hirst.”
Mr Hirst is most famous for his series of artworks depicting animals preserved in formaldehyde. In 2008, Hirst’s “The Golden Calf” sold for a record-breaking £10.3million.
Mr Sumner added: “The break-in put a real dampener on things on the day of the auction. There was lots of anticipation for it and we really came down to earth with a bump – I was walking around like a zombie all day.
“But we decided we were not going to let them get to us and that we had to just get on with it. We ended up having a record-breaking sale – the best we have ever had. People talk about the phoenix rising from the ashes – this was it.”
Police confirmed that entry had been gained to the premises by unknown means between the hours of 8pm on Tuesday, January 14th and 7.30am on Wednesday, January 15th, but that there were currently no suspect details.
They are now investigating the burglary and are appealing for witnesses to help provide further information. The Crime Reference Number for the incident is KO/14/32.
Mr Sumner also thanked fellow auction houses and members of the public for their messages of support following the incident.

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