Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 16:17 UK

Early Hirst collage makes 32,000

Red Rubber Doll scultpure
The collage is not thought to be characteristic of Hirst's later work

A collage made by modern artist Damien Hirst just after he left university has sold for £32,000.

Red Rubber Ball was a gift to Julie Balmforth, a fellow student at Goldsmith's University, south London.

It features a series of objects including a plastic rabbit, dried rose and the severed head of a doll.

It went under the hammer at Duke's of Dorchester in Dorset amid "a lot of excitement" on Thursday and was sold to an Irish collector.

Auctioneer Guy Schwinge said: "It sold to an Irish collector who is very excited at his purchase.

I like it for its rawness and its decayed look
Karen Wright
Modern Painters magazine editor

"There was a lot of excitement because it was an early one, he had just left college and his early work rarely goes on the market."

Ms Balmforth gave the young artist and his colleagues cheap rental of a studio in Bermondsey, south London, owned by her husband.

She said: "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 said it was an "absolutely unique" example of Hirst's work "before he was a production line artist".

Diamond-studded

Karen Wright, editor of Modern Painters magazine, said: "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."

The piece, measuring 2.6ft (1m) by 2.3ft (80cm), was expected to sell for between £30,000 and £50,000.

One of Hirst's most recent works, a diamond-studded skull, was recently sold to a consortium of investors for about £50m.



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