Pi Attitude Zone: Material Status

Hearses With Luggage Racks

You can’t take it with you -- official.

To prove it, look no further than the sale of a macabre sculpture by British artist Damien Hirst.  The man who gave the world the pickled shark lovingly crafted a platinum cast of a human skull, and encrusted it with 8,600 diamonds. The bad boy of modern art sold this life-sized jeweled death’s head to an investor group for a death-defying $100 million dollars, thus consolidating his position as the World’s Best-Selling Living Artist.

The episode suggests that putting a value on something has more to do with creating and fulfilling expectations than with the object’s intrinsic worth. Selling art is more about people than things. It works like selling stocks and shares. In the stock market, you get a lot of people interested in acquiring a stake in a company, and investors’ appetite for the shares then drives up the market valuation. Hirst clearly learned this lesson in spades, tagging his macabre creation with a price so outrageous that it immediately came true. If he had charged less, his skull wouldn’t have been worth nearly so much. The platinum and diamonds involved wouldn’t fetch more than $25 million, tops.

This is perhaps Hirst’s real crowning creative achievement. His masterwork was not just a comment on conspicuous consumption, it instantly becomes the thing on which it commented. Brilliant!

Hmmm, a hundred million dollars is quite a lot for one individual to pocket.  What kind of swag could the artist consider buying in order to celebrate? What bling could satisfy the man who turned a “memento mori” into the “ne plus ultra” of bling itself?

Pi’s suggestion: cash the check and convert it into $100 bills. A million of them. Which would actually fill 500 decent-sized suitcases. (New York’s Park Avenue stores have very nice purple ones for as little as $1,250 apiece).

If Mr. Hirst were to decide that he can, after all, “take it with him”, he would need that much luggage, plus a funeral cortege consisting of at least 25 hearses, to carry in all those suitcases full of hundred-dollar bills to his graveside.

Silly idea, right?  And that is why, in the words of the rock singer Don Henley, “You don’t see no hearses with luggage racks”.

Zone: Material Status Country: Europe Product – Financial