Shane Ferro
Art market news and commentary by the staff of Art+Auction

MARKET WATCH: Art market news and commentary by the staff of Art+Auction

Is Lance Armstrong Confessing to Doping Because His Damien Hirsts Have Dropped in Value?

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The short answer to that question is no. However, over at Outside Magazine and on Twitter, a number of cycling writers are engaging in a discussion on L’affaire #Doprah — the Oprah interview with Lance Armstrong that was taped yesterday and airs tomorrow, in which the disgraced former professional cyclist admits to using performance-enhancing drugs during his career. Christopher Keyes, the editor of Outside, put up a number of theories as to why Armstrong might be coming forward at this moment, the last of which was art-market themed:

And then there’s this: The value of Damien Hirst’s paintings sold between 2005 and 2008 have declined in value nearly 30 percent. And a third of his work has failed to sell at auction since 2009. So here’s a new theory to throw into the tornado of speculation: Armstrong has invested in several Hirst works over the years, and his real motivation to confess is the fact that he needs a book deal to make money because he can’t liquidate his art collection. Boom!

While this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it’s also blatantly ridiculous. Let’s just start with the fact that a decline in value doesn’t make a collection unsellable (though the commoditization of Hirst’s market would make a sale more difficult) and progress to the fact that Armstrong collects a number of different artists, not just Hirst, meaning, if he’s been smart over the last few years, his collection is probably worth a ton, at least for now. It’s also possible that the cyclist was ahead of the curve on the Hirst market: he sold his Hirst-designed butterfly bike back in 2009.

If you really want to know why Armstrong is confessing, it’s probably got nothing to do with the art market. More likely it’s tied to a desire to regain control of the narrative of his legacy, which is somewhat out-of-control at this point.

Shane Ferro

(Photo via Cycling Weekly)

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