Damien Hirst: Jumping the Shark

For all his celebrity, Hirst’s stock in the art market has experienced a stunning deflation. According to data compiled by the firm Artnet, Hirst works acquired during his commercial peak, between 2005 and 2008, have since resold at an average loss of 30 percent. And that probably understates the decline—judging from the dropoff in sales volume, collectors aren’t bringing their big-ticket Hirsts to market. A third of the more than 1,700 Hirst pieces offered at auctions since 2009 have failed to sell at all—they’ve been “burned,” in the terminology of the art world. “He has way underperformed,” says Michael Moses, a retired New York University business professor who maintains a financial index for art. “He has lots and lots of negative returns.”

The Saving of Ground Zero

To the degree that it’s possible for a 102-story building to take a city by surprise, One World Trade Center snuck up on the New York skyline. For years the project, conceived in the throes of tragedy, has been debated, negotiated, renamed, redrawn, hailed as a beacon, and maligned as a boondoggle. It wasn’t until recently, though, that it presented itself as an immutable fact, beginning to replace the void above Ground Zero with steel and reflective glass. Designed to commemorate lost life and recapture lost revenue, the half-completed skyscraper is both a nationalistic statement—it was formerly known as the “Freedom Tower”—and the centerpiece of a speculative real estate project.

From his headquarters high above 42nd Street, about three miles to the north, real estate developer Douglas Durst has been keeping watch over One World Trade’s rise. “I think it’s going to be quite spectacular,” he says one sultry July afternoon, sitting in a room decorated with photographs of his forbears in the family real estate company. Looking south over the majestic spread of Manhattan, One World Trade was wrapped in midsummer haze, and the air was thick with irony. If anyone in power had listened to Durst years ago, the vastly expensive tower would not exist.

The Octopus Conspiracy

Begley’s simple Google search launched a four-year-and-counting odyssey, during which she has devoted herself to tracking down forgotten documents, corresponding with federal prisoners, putting questions to Oliver North, and even confronting the man who may have shot her dad. Her work, she says, has placed her own life in danger and made her a target of the same forces that killed her father. And yet she cannot stop. She keeps following the siren song of the conspiracy theory, the same beguiling cognitive path that lures others to the JFK assassination and Area 51. What was once a family tragedy has blossomed into something else entirely, a vast puzzle whose solution promises to illuminate not only her father’s death but the dark forces behind the world’s apparent chaos.

The Fall of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls’ descent into blight—in spite of its proximity to an attraction that draws at least 8 million tourists each year—is a tale that Hudson’s little newspaper has been telling for years. It encompasses just about every mistake a city could make, including the one Frankie G. cited: a 1960s mayor’s decision to bulldoze his quaint downtown and replace it with a bunch of modernist follies. There was a massive hangar-like convention center designed by Philip Johnson; Cesar Pelli’s glassy indoor arboretum, the Wintergarden, which was finally torn down because it cost a fortune to heat through the Lake Erie winter; a shiny office building known locally as the “Flashcube,” formerly the headquarters of a chemical company and now home to a trinket market. Once a hydropowered center of industry, Niagara Falls is now one of America’s most infamous victims of urban decay, hollowed out by four decades of job loss, mafia infiltration, political corruption, and failed get-fixed-quick schemes.

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