Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 14:32 UK

Early Hirst collage goes on sale

Red Rubber Ball
Red Rubber Doll is a rare example of Hirst's early work

A collage created by artist Damien Hirst during his student years is to be sold at auction in Dorchester.

Red Rubber Ball, which features random articles found by Hirst, including a severed doll's head and a dried rose, is expected to fetch up to £50,000.

Last year a two-day auction of art by Hirst raised £111m, a new record for a sale dedicated to one artist.

The collage was a gift to a fellow student who gave Hirst cheap lodging while studying at Goldsmiths College.

Julie Balmforth offered the young Hirst the opportunity to rent studios owned by her husband's company in Bermondsey, London.

"At the time, because I was busy being pregnant, it was really important to me to be with this group of people when I could," said Ms Balmforth.

'Pivotal work'

"So I set them up in my studio space and that is where Damien and the rest of them began to do the Freeze show."

"It was great to be associated with that group of people - not only is Damien's art special but he is special as a human being."

"All that group went on to become famous artists while I went on to have three children. They are my art."

Art critic Brian Sewell called the collage "absolutely unique", hailing it as a rare example of Hirst's work "before he was a production line artist".

Damien Hirst
Hirst was named the most powerful figure in contemporary art last year

In typically outspoken fashion, he added: "Why the hell is she selling it in Dorchester?"

"The proper place to put this is in the London market where an international market would be aware of it."

But Karen Wright, editor of Modern Painters magazine, countered: "It shows none of the characteristics of a 'signature piece' - a spin or a spot painting - which is something that many Hirst collectors, particularly new ones, desire."

"I actually like it better for its rawness and its decayed look, but feel it is probably a smart move to sell it out of London."

"Most of the London auction houses are Hirst-ed out after the influx of works from his auction last September, and estimates and results have both been lower."

A spokesman for the auction house, Duke's of Dorchester, said it was "amazing to see a work of this importance in a provincial auction".

"This is a pivotal work in the artist's early phase.

"Red Rubber Ball is unusual in that it is a rare example of a work by the artist's own hand, not seen in his later works."

Other artists who will feature in the sale include Picasso, JMW Turner, Jasper Johns and David Hockney.

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