Mr. Hirst grabbed the limelight at the auctions too. At Sotheby’s on Thursday night he became the most expensive living artist at auction when “Lullaby Spring,” a 2002 stainless-steel cabinet filled with 6,136 painted, bronze cast pills, was sold to an unidentified telephone bidder for $19.2 million.
Frank Dunphy, Mr. Hirst’s business manager was there, reporting to him by cellphone. “Damien was blown away by the price,” said Mr. Dunphy, who would not identify the buyer. “We were betting it would go for $10 million to $20 million.”
Just 24 hours earlier Lucian Freud had the honor of being the most expensive living artist ever sold at auction. On Wednesday night at Christie’s, a 1992 portrait of Bruce Bernard, a British photo editor who died in 2000, sold for $15.6 million. David Dawson, Mr. Freud’s longtime studio assistant and model, could be seen standing in the doorway of the sales room, also reporting on the auction from a cellphone. Once the painting was sold, he quietly slipped out.
Neither the cabinet by Mr. Hirst nor the painting by Mr. Freud was the most expensive contemporary artwork sold last week. That honor went to Francis Bacon, whose 1978 self-portrait brought $43 million. Anthony Grant, a specialist in the contemporary art department at Sotheby’s in New York, took the winning bid. After the sale dealers said they thought the buyer was Stefan Edlis, the Chicago collector who recently sold Warhol’s “Turquoise Marilyn,” to the hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen for $80 million.
Tobias Meyer, director of Sotheby’s contemporary art worldwide, said the Hirst and the Bacon “sit outside the market because they can’t be replaced.”