The book

The author

  • David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including The Forgetting ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Immortal Game ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS.

    More info here.

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April 26, 2009


Marty Smith

In a single stroke years of market creation hegemony was over. Damien Hirst simultaneously created and won a rivalry with gallery owners September 15, 2008. Hirst read digital teal leaves correctly. Even still you could hear his sigh of relief across an ocean and a continent. Damien’s bet paying off did not mean placing it in the first place didn’t require steel cohones. Gallery owners were forced to play Mr. Hirst’s game even as the central gambit of this shark’s tale was the intended disintermediation of the art gallery business model. Good is leaving a rival few options. Masterful is forcing rivals to participate in their own destruction. Damien Hirst’s triangulation of previous sales against this new sale where all funds went to the artist was arbitrage a Wall Street bank could envy (especially now). Hirst, like AIG, made himself TOO BIG TO FAIL. Any market deflation would simultaneously destroy inventory value AND a shaky business model (art galleries). An artist robs robber barons when technology destroys anyone and anything in the value chain not providing value. If that last sentence sounds like the definition of all too many galleries you understand why Mr. Hirst loaded a single shell and successfully killed every predator and sucker fish in the art world. There are good galleries. There are great galleries. Now maybe all galleries will greet with a smile and a story instead of a wave and a yawn. Galleries who don’t see their new future have the half-life of bananas thanks to the fastest gun in the artistic west.


Garry Kasparov, arguably the greatest chess player to have lived, and someone who was the top player in the world for 15+ years, is another excellent example. He's had a long-standing rivalry with Anatoly Karpov (whom he played in world championship title matches numerous times). Kasparov even credits much of his success to the rivalry with Karpov.

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