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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October 2004, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Hirst restaurant sale makes 11m
Damien Hirst
Hirst's restaurant closed after five years in 2003
Aspirin-styled bar stools, medical cabinets and other fittings from artist Damien Hirst's restaurant Pharmacy have sold for a record 11.1m.

More than 150 items from the famed London venue, which closed in 2003, went under the hammer at Sotheby's.

Auctioneers said they were "astonished" by the total - more than 8m higher than expected proceeds.

Among the items sold were a sculpture of Hirst's own DNA helix, rolls of silver wallpaper and several paintings.

A giant medicine cabinet, entitled The Fragile Truth, attracted the largest bid of the night at 1.2m, an auction record for a Hirst piece.

Two Martini glasses with an estimated price tag of between 50 and 70 eventually sold for 4,800.

Sell-out success

Hirst himself did not attend the sale on Monday, but said afterwards: "Suddenly my restaurant venture seems to be a success."

A spokeswoman for Sotheby's said about 500 bidders had turned out for the auction in London.

"We have been astounded by the response and by the total, which was far in excess of that predicted," she said.

Martini glasses designed by Damien Hirst
Martini glasses far exceeded auctioneers' expectations
"This was what we call a 'white glove' sale, a term meaning that every single item was sold."

Pharmacy, in London's Notting Hill Gate, opened its doors on New Year's Eve 1997 and soon had a reputation for enticing celebrity diners and the trendy art crowd.

Hirst saw off a challenge by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to keep the name Pharmacy, after he was accused of confusing consumers who could mistake it for a high street chemist.

It had been feared that much of the contents of the restaurant had been destroyed in a fire at an art warehouse in May, which destroyed works by artists including Tracey Emin and Rachel Whiteread.

'Enduring appeal'

Although some of Hirst's works were destroyed in the fire, the Pharmacy items had been stored elsewhere.

Oliver Barker, senior director of Sotheby's contemporary art department, said: "The sensational results are the culmination of months of hard work and the vindication of Damien's enduring appeal.

"We established several new records, not only in terms of the prices achieved but also in as much as it was the first time there has been an entire sale of works consigned by a living artist.

"Damien has definitely earned his place in art history - he is the utopian artist of our time."

Six Pharmacy ashtrays, expected to sell for 100, reached 1,600, while a pair of salt and pepper shakers went for 1,920.

Twenty rolls of the restaurant's distinctive wallpaper fetched 15,600.

Do the Pharmacy's fittings strike you as value for money? Or have the buyers been taken for a ride?

There's too much money being unwisely spent - surely a sign that things can only go downhill. It used to be said that you should start selling your shares when the bellboy gives you a stock tip....personally, I think it's time to sell when artless Martini glasses from a failed restaurant sell for 4800 a pair.
Vince Tolworth, England

I agree with Karen Parmar's comment - Perhaps Mr Hirst can get creative in the philanthropic arena with the same success....something that few celebritities in the UK seem to be interested in unlike their counterparts here.
SJC, Washington, DC (former Brit)

Each one to his own; how many of us spend thousands on booze and fags without a second thought?
Brent, Nottingham, UK

As someone who is struggling to pay the rent and huge debts post-university degree, this report made me feel sick. To think that people can through away such large sums of money on ashtrays and Martini glasses, just because they have Hirst's name attached to them. Still, that is their right. It just highlights the great divide between people with surplus cash and people who, whilst hardworking, are struggling to make ends meet.
Matt Green, Cardiff

A wise investment, I say. All the artefacts will be worth a lot of money when Damien Hirst passes away. It's great to see a hardworking and entrepreneurial artist for a change who has the drive and initative to start up an unusual restarant. What have his contemporaries done other than produce a pointless bed? Damien and his team deserve all the credit they can for successful 'brand development'particularly during his lifetime.
Adela Hussain,

Their money, their taste, their right.
Tony Hayward, Belfast, UK

You can't even call it art - they're common everyday objects! More sense than money, fools easily parted with money etc etc. And no, it's not sour grapes or jealousy - even if I had that kind of money I wouldn't waste it on Damien Hirst or his stupid "art"
Sarah, UK

It is merely a sign of the decadent and over-hyped times we live in.
Albert, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The man is a genius, the wall paper was incredible! (An absolute bargin at 780 a roll.) Criticise all you like, he is one of this countries greatest assets, and he just goes from strength to strength.
David Lewis, Woking, UK

The emperor, it seems, is starkers...
Mike Platts, Dubai, UAE

2,000 for the salt and pepper pots. Hmm, that's about as reasonably priced as the food was when it was open, though probably not as over-seasoned.
Dix, Newmarket, Suffolk

It is hard to say whether these items are value you for money or not, i believe the true answer is down to Hirst himself. If, in 30 or so years, Hirst is forgotten about then these pieces are of no more value than their original prices. If however, Hirst continues to shock the art world with his 'creations' and is then considered one of the great artists of his generation then it will be money well spent. I can imagine a time when watching 'Antiques Roadshow' and someone brings out an ashtray Hirst has designed and the antique dealer exclaims his excitment and declares its value into the thousands, then the people who paid over the odds for these items will be pleased with the money they spent.
Jackson Gore, London

How much did the shark fin formaldehyde soup go for?
Slim, UK

Art is, as ever, worth what people are willing to pay for it!
Matt, Nottingham, UK

I'm just annoyed that I didn't pinch one of the ashtrays last time I was there.
Alex El Jundi, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Although the original price of the objects can only be a fraction of the price that galleries and collectors have been willing to pay for them, it is the fact that they have passed through selective process of the artist , and thereby have had the touch of greatness put upon them. Any object is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it, and I admire Damien's business sense as much as his artistic sensibility - Good on him.
Brian Popay, Bath, UK

It just shows you that some people, in fact too many people, have too much money. Its an insult to all those aspiring artists who have so much talent but cant get their work noticed.
Andrew Whittaker, Doncaster, UK

What a complete waste of money. The bidders should have gone to Ikea instead.
Chris Shaw, Huddersfield, UK.

What a bunch of mugs! (priced at 4000 each)
Alastair Lee, London, England

The phrase "More money then sense!", comes to mind.
Ian, Oldham. UK

How could buyers possibly be taken for a ride - that is the nature of an auction. Auctions allow people to spend exactly the amount that they believe something to be worth. If you believe an ashtray to be worth 1600 then that is exactly what it is worth - whether someone else agrees with your viewpoint is quite another matter!
Gary Quigley, Woking UK

This has to be the finest example of the saying that a fool and his/her money are soon parted.
Simon Graham, Leeds, UK

I think they have been taken for a ride. They are simply small pieces of art that will have no value in a few years when the venture is forgotten about. Go to IKEA, get the same type of stuff for a lot less money.
Karen Lucas, Reading, UK

Let's not forget that any item at auction is only worth what people are willing to pay - there were obviously alot of Damien Hirst fans there that day! Good luck to him, if only we were all so successful! Wouldn't it be nice if he now donated some of those unexpected millions to charity?
Karen Parmar, United Kingdom

What goes around comes around - Hirst will be well taxed, then he'll spend what's left... and the money will end up back in circulation instead of some stock-broker's bank account. All credit to Hirst for proving that a fool and his money are still easily parted.
Ross Hamilton, Alford, Lincs, England

It just goes to show that if you somehow make a name for yourself in any field, then you can sell anything for any amount. If I turned up with something that I spent 6 weeks handcrafting from ivory, I'd be lucky to make my taxi fare home, yet Hirst flogs, what is essentially a peice of twisted metal for nigh on 2000. The world has gone mad.
Mark Wib, Chesterfield, UK

Another acrimonious divorce between Money and Sense!
Dan Scobie, Cotswolds, UK

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