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Hirst bypasses dealers in major auction of his work

In hopes of shaking up the art market, Damien Hirst, Britain's richest artist, is selling some of his most famous pieces directly through Sotheby's auction house later this week.

In hopes of shaking up the art market, Damien Hirst, Britain's richest artist, is selling some of his most famous pieces directly through Sotheby's auction house later this week.

The Golden Calf, an embalmed calf with hooves and horns of 18-karat gold, The Incredible Journey, a zebra in formaldehyde, Hirst's pickled sharks and his paintings of butterflies are to be sold at the Beautiful Inside My Head Forever sale.

Sotheby's London auction house won't charge any commission to the artist to hold the sale, unlike commercial galleries or art dealers, which take half the sale price.

"It seems sad that artists don't make money,'' Hirst said Monday. "If you say to someone that galleries take 50 per cent, they'd be shocked by that. In any other business, it's an extortionate amount of money. I've never thought it made much sense.''

Hirst becomes the first major artist to sell directly through an auction house.

Guiding other artists

The sale could test the market for contemporary art, but also pave a path for other artists to follow.

"I now have the choice of selling in a gallery or at an auction,'' Hirst said in an interview with the Art Newspaper.

"I definitely get a kick out of upsetting a lot of people,'' he added, saying there is a chance commercial galleries may avoid him in future.

Sotheby's will not guarantee Hirst a minimum price for works offered at the two-day event, but the auction house estimates the sale will generate about $122 million Cdn. Hirst risks making less if the sale fails to achieve its predicted estimate.

The Golden Calf has an auction estimate of $18 million and The Incredible Journey $3 million.

Artists are 'afraid of money': Hirst

Hirst, 43, is among the best known of the "Young British Artists" who came to prominence in the 1990s.

His often disturbing works have also included a diamond-encrusted skull and maggots attacking a cow's head.

He is now Britain's richest living artist, but says most artists are "afraid of money." This has helped perpetuate an "unfair" commercial gallery system, he said.

Charities such as youth group Kids Company, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are to benefit from the sale.

The 223-lot sale is to be held on Sept. 15 and 16.

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