It has been 10 years since Damien Hirst sold 233 lots at Sotheby’s raising $198m – entitled “Beautiful inside My Head Forever”. The sale was conducted on September 15th & 16th and the timing proved an odd counterpoise to the destruction and collapse in financial markets. It helped highlight the surreal nature of financial markets when compared to the “real world”.

To prove to the art world that financial types don’t, well, understand art, I thought it would be useful to compare how Hirst’s art had done compared to the global high yield bond market. As even us financial philistines know – there is no visual pleasure in ownership of a high yield portfolio, but there is in Hirst’s dots or sharks.

Here’s the back of a pharmacy cabinet analysis. Hirst’s $198m put into the global high yield bond market would have more than doubled over the last 10 years – let’s call it $400m bar the shouting. A Google search of Damien Hirst’s price index shows a peak prior to the financial crisis and values are currently around one third of those in 2008. Hirst’s $198m sale would now, in theory, only raise in the region of a paltry $65m.

So I guess that’s asset allocation for you, or simply the power of carry. Or maybe the moral is to be a rich philistine or a poor artist. Or alternatively be Damien Hirst.

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