Damien Hirst

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Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Sat Apr 16, 2011 1:12 am

The pickled shark of Time has devoured the Damien Hirst thread on the old ATU site.


The Physical Impossibility of Death in Mind of Someone Living, 1991.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:11 am


Pharmacy- DH.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:16 am

Mother and Child Divided- DH:






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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:21 am


Let's Eat Outdoors Today- DH.

Thousands of maggots mature into flies and feast on an abandoned barbecue.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:25 am


Away From the Flock- DH.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:29 am


Hirst in front of The Incredible Journey (zebra in formaldehyde).

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:32 am


For the Love of God (diamond-encrusted skull) sold for £50 million in 2007.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:38 am


DH was sued by the manfacturer of a scientific toy on which he based more recent anatomical sculpture.


Last edited by eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 11:03 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  Nah Ville Sky Chick on Fri May 20, 2011 12:39 am

eddie wrote:
Pharmacy- DH.

Now that definitely ain't art, but I may have to ask Captain Hi-Lo monkey

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:42 am


LSD spot painting by DH (or one of his assistants).

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:48 am

Fresh out of ideas

The problem is not Damian Hirst's borrowing from others, but his own loss of originality


Jonathan Jones The Guardian, Wednesday 25 October 2006


Plagiarising himself ... Damien Hirst. Photograph: PA

There was a moment when the whole world was plagiarising Damien Hirst. Films, in the 1990s, had serial killers standing with shark-like grins inside glass vitrines. Wrapping paper came in coloured spots. Museums became self-conscious about the surreal nature of their collections. All this owed its fin-de-siecle vogue to a cocky artist and his obsession with death.
If you'd asked me, as recently as a year ago, what I thought of artist Robert Dixon's claim that the pattern of Hirst's print, Valium, is a spot-for-spot copy of his own design True Daisy, you'd have got a short, rude answer. As in, who bloody cares? Hirst is the most original artist of my generation, and I have watched his career with admiration, awe, and irritation at the large number of stupid things said about him.

Dixon's accusation is just another stupid thing said. It has even less pertinence than the claim that Hirst's anatomical sculpture, Hymn, copied a scientific toy - undeniable, and financially settled, but with no consequences for how one sees Hirst. The reason it has no relevance is that anything Hirst borrows becomes part of him, not through some stale reference to Marcel Duchamp, but because he established, by about 1992, such an imaginative artistic identity it can absorb whatever lies in its path. Hymn becomes a joke about his own development, a deliberately silly substitute for the human being cartoonists imagined him pickling. Valium makes an even less convincing "plagiarism". The print is part of the spot series Hirst has been making since 1991. The meaning of these lies in their seriality. If one owes its design to Dixon, so what?

Anyway, that's what I would have said, if it wasn't for the terrible change that has become manifest in Hirst, the premature, devastating loss of that fecundity and generosity his art seemed to so grandly possess. Hirst has not had a good idea for 13 years. In 1993 he created Mother and Child Divided, the most poetic of his animal works. After that, he started to flail. He went in for the jocular, piggy porkers on slides, cows having sex (that one failed to pass its technical), took a break and came back with self-parody, self-pity, mock Baroque and lousy verse. None of it is up to much even if, at the Venice Biennale a few years ago, he showed a glittering steel shelf unit arrayed with coloured pills that made everything else look dismal. The other art really was dismal. A stale Hirst is still a lot fresher than most of the goods at your average art fair.

Hirst's waning originality gives this accusation of plagiarism more resonance. With each new show, the paucity and repetition of Hirst's art is more blatant. It isn't borrowing from others that is the problem. The tragedy is his increasingly pathetic attempts to repeat, or pastiche, himself.

It doesn't do to compare him with Picasso, who pastiched contemporary and historical art yet produced something new every time. To make a comparison between, say, Picasso's quotations of Raphael, Rubens and his own Cubist style in Guernica and the awful, ugly, bronze colossus of a flayed pregnant woman that Hirst exhibited at the Royal Academy this year is to compare genius with dreck. Just think about this: when Hirst exhibited his anatomical man, it was, even fans had to admit, a decline from his vitrines. Now he strains to recapture even Hymn's heights.

In his day Hirst was, without question, the artist who most mattered in the entire world: the only artist whose images truly entered the culture's lifeblood after the death of Andy Warhol. Even when he started to go off, he was worth giving the benefit of the doubt. I could forgive him everything because he had imagination. Now that is gone it is hard to forgive him anything.

· Jonathan Jones is a Guardian art critic jonathan22@btinternet.com
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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 12:53 am


DH at 16 goofing around with a dead head in a morgue.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri May 20, 2011 1:04 am

^

Well, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics once wrote a tribute to DH called "Damien Save Me", but I can't seem to locate it at present. scratch

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  ISN on Fri May 20, 2011 1:25 am

Obviously I've never met him....hehehe

I think he went to Goldsmiths a few years before me - not sure - but his contemporaries did anyway......

I don't find his stuff particularly brilliant.......

but I think there's something visceral (if that's not too strong a word for someone who's obsession is death) about his work that appeals to the elite minds of teh art world.......

he can't have been that effin brilliant if he's already run out of ideas.......

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Sat Nov 26, 2011 7:14 am

Damien Hirst is at the top of the modern art food chain

Jonathan Jones
The Guardian

Hirst's pickled tiger shark changed the way I saw conceptualism. His forthcoming Tate retrospective will show how the rest of recent British art is a footnote to his brilliance


Sweet tooth … Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991). Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

I had no job and didn't know where I was going in life when I walked into the Saatchi Gallery in 1992 and saw a tiger shark swimming towards me. Standing in front of Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living in its original pristine state was a disconcerting and marvellous experience. The shark, then, did not look pickled, it looked alive. It seemed to move as you moved around the tank that contained it, because the refractions of the liquid inside which it "swam" caused your vision of it to jump as you changed your angle.

There it was: life, or was it death, relentlessly approaching me through deep waters. It was galvanising, energising. It was a great work of art.

I knew what I thought great art looked like. I doted on Leonardo da Vinci, I loved Picasso. I still revere them both. But it was Hirst's shark that made me believe art made with fish, glass vitrines and formaldehyde – and therefore with anything – can be great. I found his work not just interesting or provocative but genuinely profound. As a memento mori, as an exploration of the limits of art, as a meditation on the power of spectacle, even as a comment on the shark-infested waters of post-Thatcherite Britain, it moved me deeply.

I'm looking forward to Damien Hirst's retrospective at Tate Modern because it will be a new chance to understand the power I have, in my life, sensed in his imagination and intellect. I think Hirst is a much more exciting modern artist than Marcel Duchamp. To be honest, the word "exciting" just doesn't go with the word "Duchamp". Get a load of that exciting urinal!

Picasso is exciting; Duchamp is an academic cult. The readymade as it was deployed by Duchamp gave birth to conceptual forms that are "interesting" but rarely grab you where it matters.

Hirst is more Picasso than Duchamp – the Picasso who put a bicycle seat and handlebars together to create a bull's head. He's even more Holbein than Duchamp – the Holbein who painted a skull across a portrait of two Renaissance gentlemen.

He is a giant of modern art. There is something hilarious about those who pride themselves on their interest in contemporary art, following the latest names from Glasgow and so forth, but sneer at the supposed vulgarity and cynicism of Hirst. This is like saying, in 19th-century Britain, "My goodness, I really love all this great Victorian art we have nowadays, with its sentimental scenes and frock-coated portraits, but I hate that vulgar Turner. What a fraud!"

Hirst stands far above his British contemporaries. The depth of his early work is extraordinary and dazzling. The intensity of his imaginative grasp of reality is unique. He makes art that is about life, and death, and money too, which is another absolute truth of our world – unfortunately. The whole of recent British art is a footnote to his brilliance.

This is sacrilege in the art world right now, because a lot of careers are based on pretending Hirst was just one among many cool artists and that he is now less important than Bob and Roberta Smith, Grayson Perry and other such giants of our moment. But the truth is soon to be revealed at Tate Modern.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Sat Nov 26, 2011 7:36 am

For the love of Damien Hirst: Tate Modern hosts first UK retrospective

Diamond-studded skull to take Turbine Hall pride of place as economic crisis puts Hirst's career in new light

Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer
guardian.co.uk, Monday 21 November 2011 15.00 GMT


Damien Hirst with For the Love of God, his cast of a human skull made of platinum and diamonds. Photograph: Reuters

Damien Hirst's famous – indeed notorious – platinum and diamond skull will go on show in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall next year, in the first survey show devoted to the artist in the UK.

The work, For the Love of God, has recently drawn huge crowds at museums in Florence and Amsterdam – but has not been seen in London since 2007 when, at the height of Britain's pre-crash prosperity, it was sold (for £50m, Hirst claimed) to a consortium that included the artist himself.

Hirst, 46, occupies a unique place in British culture: the prime mover among a brash and brilliant generation of artists who emerged in the early 1990s, determined to be famous, unabashed by controversy. And, although he has had retrospective exhibitions in Naples and Monaco, he has never been the focus of a solo show in a British museum that would allow visitors to set aside the hype and judge the works on their own terms.

Over 70 pieces, a number of them room-size installations, will come to Tate Modern from April to September next year. But, significantly, the show will not include recent works such as the critically panned skull paintings he showed at the Wallace Collection in London in 2009 – described by the Guardian's art critic, Adrian Searle, as "a memento mori for a reputation".

Instead, the exhibition, curated by the Tate's Ann Gallagher, will mainly follow ideas he began to explore when young. "We did have to make decisions," she said. "We are concentrating on series established early in his career, not the series that began later." There will, she said, be at least one new piece – but it will follow the route of early series, rather than developing his recent experiments with figurative painting.

There will be plenty of familiar signature pieces, such as the pickled shark – The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) – and the picked cow and calf, Mother and Child Divided, in the version made for the Tate's Turner prize retrospective in 2007. Hirst's vitrines and pharmaceutical cabinets will be explored from their earliest incarnation: Sinner, a medicine cabinet he made in 1988 while still a student at Goldsmiths College. Also featured is A Thousand Years (1990), consisting of a glass box containing flies, maggots, a cow's head and an Insect-O-Cutor. It was one of his earliest works to explore mortality via living creatures as the flies fed, reproduced and were killed.

With a great deal of the work in the exhibition made familiar by media exposure, the organisers claim the show will give visitors a fresh perspective. "They are very well-known as images," said Gallagher, "but they have not been brought together ever before, and we want to show the unravelling and unrolling of an entire career."

Chris Dercon, Tate Modern's director, said: "We all think we know this work through the media. But if you are actually with the work, and can experience it, smell it, and I shouldn't say this, but touch it – it will be very different. There is a claustrophobic, congested feeling from experiencing these works … these are rooms, environments, which invite the spectator to interact. There is a kinaesthetic aspect when you are in the room with these works, seeing your own reflection in the vitrines. It is as if you are stepping into his laboratory of ideas."

One of the high points of the show will be the chance to see a two-part installation shown together for the first time since it was installed in a disused London shop in 1991. In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies) consists of a room lined with white-painted canvases with pupae attached to them. Butterflies hatch and feed, then eventually die. The second part is called In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays), a room in which dead butterflies are stuck to canvases, with a table nearby, on which sits an ashtray and cigarette ends – an early example of Hirst's use of cigarettes as a metaphor for pleasure and death. Visitors will be able to walk through the room with butterflies fluttering through it.

One of the fascinations of the exhibition will be the chance to reassess Hirst – who, perhaps more than any other living artist, is associated with the vagaries of the art market – in the light of what appears to be a new economic era. A recent world tour for the diamond skull was cancelled because of fears it would look "inappropriate" in the current financial climate, said Jude Tyrrell, the director of Hirst's company, Science. It will surely look very different in the uncertain London of 2012 compared with its sensational appearance in buoyant 2007.

The exhibition will also have a room devoted to Hirst's auction at Sotheby's, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, which raised £111m on 15 and 16 September 2008, the day before Lehman Brothers collapsed. It will provide a chance for visitors to reflect on an event in which art and commerce were intermingled in an unprecedented way – with Hirst "curating" the event as if it were an artwork in itself, and bypassing his gallery, White Cube, to sell direct to the public.

The Damien Hirst exhibition, part of the Cultural Olympiad's London 2012 festival, runs at Tate Modern from 4 April to 9 September. For the Love of God will be free to view in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall for the first 12 weeks

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:50 pm

Damien Hirst faces eight new claims of plagiarism

List includes In the Name of the Father, Pharmacy, as well as the spin and spot paintings

Dalya Alberge
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 September 2010 18.40 BST


A detail from Damien Hirst's In the Name of the Father which is claimed to be based on John LeKay's earlier This is My Body, This Is My Blood. Photograph: Jackdaw

From formaldehyde-immersed sharks to diamond-encrusted skulls, Damien Hirst has become used to taking flak from traditionalists.

Less than welcome have been the accusations of plagiarism, the latest of which were detailed today with claims that no fewer than 15 works produced over the years by the self-styled enfant terrible have been allegedly "inspired" by others.

While Hirst has previously faced accusations that works including his diamond skull came from the imagination of other artists, the new allegations include his "crucified sheep", medicine cabinets, spin paintings, spot paintings, installation of a ball on an air-jet, his anatomical figure and cancer cell images.

Charles Thomson, the artist and co-founder of the Stuckists, a group campaigning for traditional artistry, collated the number of plagiarism claims relating to Hirst's work for the latest issue of the Jackdaw art magazine.

He came up with 15 examples, with eight said to be new instances of plagiarism. The tally includes the medicine cabinets that Hirst first displayed in 1989, and its development in 1992 - a room-size installation called Pharmacy.

"Joseph Cornell displayed a cabinet with bottles on shelves called Pharmacy in 1943," said Thomson. Nor were Hirst's spin paintings or his installation of a ball on a jet of air original, he said, noting that both were done in the 1960s.

"Hirst puts himself forward as a great artist, but a lot of his work exists only because other artists have come up with original ideas which he has stolen," said Thomson. "Hirst is a plagiarist in a way that would be totally unacceptable in science or literature."

Aggrieved artists include John LeKay, a Briton who says he first thought of nailing a lamb's carcass to wood like a cross in 1987, only to see it reproduced by Hirst. Lekay previously claimed in 2007 that he had been producing jewel-encrusted skulls since 1993, before Hirst did so. Lori Precious, an American, says she first arranged butterfly wings into patterns to suggest stained-glass windows in 1994, years before Hirst.

Imitation may be flattery, but not when Hirst is taking both the financial and artistic credit for their ideas, say Lekay and Precious. LeKay has never sold anything above £3,500, while Hirst's set of three crucified sheep was a reported £5.7m. Precious's butterflies sold for £6,000 against Hirst's version for £4.7m.

While Hirst is one of Britain's richest men, LeKay cannot live off his art. Accusing Hirst of being dishonest about where he gets his ideas, he said: "He should just tell the truth."

Although LeKay recognises that artists have always found inspiration in each other, he says the great ones adapt ideas to create works with their own individual and original stamp.

He said: "Damien sees an idea, tweaks it a little bit, tries to make it more commercial. He's not like an artist inspired by looking inwards. He looks for ideas from other people. It's superficial. Put both [crucified sheep] together and … it's the same thing."

In the 1990s, they were friends and shared exhibitions, which is when Hirst may have seen his sheep. Since then, LeKay has become more interested in Buddhism than material wealth, so he does not plan to seek compensation.

Precious recalled her pain at seeing Hirst's butterflies in a newspaper: "My artist friends and collectors called to tell me they couldn't believe the similarities between Hirst's work and mine, and … at first I too thought it was my work."

Although the patterns are not identical, she said: "It's the same material (butterfly wings) and the same idea (recreations of stained-glass windows)."

Without the funds to pursue legal action, she no longer produces butterfly works.

It emerged in 2000 that Hirst agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to head off legal action for breach of copyright by the designer and makers of a £14.99 toy which bore a resemblance to his celebrated 20ft bronze sculpture, Hymn.

David Lee, the editor of the Jackdaw, says Hirst's compensation was an admission of guilt. "The fact he was willing to fork out the money is an indication that he knew he was plagiarising the guy's work."

Hirst declined to comment.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:15 pm

Full circle: the endless attraction of Damien Hirst's spot paintings

Damien Hirst's 1,500 career-spanning, geometrically relentless spot paintings are taking over the planet. Adrian Searle longs for a smear, a wobble – or one with no purple in it

Adrian Searle

The Guardian, Thursday 12 January 2012


Addictive ... a detail from Damien Hirst's Aminoantipyrine. Photograph: Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2011/Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

The titles of Damien Hirst's spot paintings give them a slightly menacing, as well as a dangerously attractive, air: Cocaine Hydrochloride, Morphine Sulphate, Bovine Albumin, Butulinium Toxin A. Their relentless, insistent brightness feels almost bad for you. No wonder one group of paintings is called Controlled Substances. Yet they have no discernable secrets, and that's part of the deal. Nothing more is revealed, however long you look. They're as unsatisfying as cigarettes, calming but addictive. Avoid prolonged exposure.

Opening today at all 11 Gagosian galleries around the world, including two in London, Hirst's spot paintings are taking over the planet. Hirst has produced almost 1,500, and currently has a team of assistants working on one with a million spots that will take over nine years to complete. You gasp at the labour, if little else.

So here come the spots: a quarter century of two, three, four and five-inch circles, with some as big as 40in across, and others just a couple of millimetres. Never mind the shifts from imperial measurements to metric: they're all just spots. Clean and flatly painted circles of household gloss on white or off-white backgrounds, they cover canvases large and small in unremitting grids. No two spots touch, and no colour is repeated on the same canvas, although some are close as dammit to being the same hue.

There are tiny one-spot paintings, paintings with spots at their corners, ones covered with rank after rank of hundreds, if not thousands, of little circles. There are big spots that go BAM! and others that recede, their pallid colours melting into the background. There are fields of tiny spots that give the overall impression of a greyish muted field, and great blasting walls that go on and on, blinking away as you move about them. Because the colours never touch, there's no real conversation or friction between them. Everything is insistently frontal. I long for a black spot, a wobble, a smear.

Some paintings might look perky, others dour, but somehow it doesn't matter, except to those who want a particularly early painting, an over-the-sofa one, one that goes with the curtains, or one with no purple in it (it's my unlucky colour). It may turn out that, taken all together (and one journalist, I hear, is intent on making the rounds of every Gagosian gallery to see all the paintings), the work of one or another of Hirst's assistants may have produced the best spot paintings. But is there a best or worst? How can we tell? Each has the same pictorial and optical efficiency, the same immediacy, even though they are so laborious and painstaking to produce.

In London, there are 60 paintings at Britannia Street and 48 in Davies Street. The latter has paintings small enough to carry under your arm or hide in a pocket, if they weren't screwed to the wall. Hirst's earliest spot paintings, I gather, are at the Madison Avenue gallery in New York. His first one was all hand-painted blobs, jostling, dripping and crowding an 8ft-by-12ft panel, painted while he was at Goldsmiths college, London, in the 1980s. It had a crowded, rhythmic yet open look you could get lost in, a bit like the early 1960s work of British painter Bernard Cohen, himself no stranger to the blob and spot.

But Hirst's spots soon acquired a clean and emphatic air. These were take-it-or-leave-it paintings, without problems or doubts, painted directly on the wall. He was doing lots of other things at the time, including painting on discarded cardboard boxes and producing his first medicine cabinets. The variety and inventiveness was evidence of an enquiring and lively mind. Lots of artists could make a whole career from such an apparently limited repertoire of forms and effects. But Hirst, of course, keeps several artistic modes running at once. This spring, a retrospective opens at Tate Modern, while Hirst intends to open his own museum in London's Vauxhall some time soon.

No matter how many spot paintings there are – tondos, triangles, squares, rhomboids and rectangles with corners cut off – there will always be more words spilled over them. The works look as if they were generated by machine, their cold random repetitions generating endless sameness. It is only the very small works, some with just half a dot on a tiddly canvas, that have a more sprightly, human feel.

All are structured on the grid. The grid, wrote the US critic Rosalind Krauss, is what art looks like when it turns its back on nature. The pleasures of Hirst's pharmaceutical paintings, as the spots are generically titled, are as artificial as chemicals and drugs. Showing them all over the world at the same time becomes part of their content and meaning: they're infiltrating everywhere, their field expanding to cover the world.

For a while, coloured spots signalled a fresh, sophisticated, zesty new Britain. Whether Hirst had much to do with this is uncertain. No one owns the spot, although designer appropriations always remind you of Hirst, or of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who has been covering her work, and her body, in polka dots for 60 years. (Kusama is at Tate Modern next month.) US artist Ellsworth Kelly was also arranging grids of colours in the 1950s, while Germany's Gerhard Richter has been painting colour charts and squares for decades. Hirst just ran with an unoriginal idea in an original way. Which, pretty much, is what art always does.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:13 pm


Peter Duggan's Artoons.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:28 am


Peter Duggan's Artoons.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:02 pm

Damien Hirst and the great art market heist

Hirst is the world's richest artist and the Tate's big retrospective will mark the zenith of his power. But when his stock falls, how will an art world in thrall to big money respond?

Hari Kunzru

guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 March 2012 22.55 GMT


A question of value: Hirst's Symphony In White Major....Absolution II. Photograph: Damien Hirst And Science Ltd DACS 2011

The Map and the Territory, the latest novel by the mordant French satirist Michel Houellebecq, opens with a description of a painting titled Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons Dividing Up the Art Market. Koons is portrayed throwing his arms wide. Hirst is slumped on a white leather sofa, drinking a beer. For Houllebecq's fictional artist, "Hirst was basically easy to capture: you could make him brutal, cynical in an 'I shit on you from the top of my pile of cash' kind of way; you could also make him a rebel artist (but rich all the same) pursuing an anguished work on death; finally, there was in his face, something ruddy and heavy, typically English, which made him look like a rank-and-file Arsenal supporter."

Hirst is not only the world's richest artist, but a transformative figure who can be assured of his place in history. Sadly – for him and for us – this is not because of the quality of his work but because he has almost single-handedly remade the global art market in his image: that is to say, the image of the artist as celebrity clown, the licensed working-class fool who not only shits on us from on top of his pile of cash, but persuades us to buy that shit and beg for more. This cockney chancer routine, perfected in the 60s by the likes of David Bailey and Keith Moon, has deep roots in British pop culture. We have a lot of affection for guys like these, who seem to be getting away with it, sticking it to the man.

In the early 90s, Hirst seemed like a breath of fresh air, a rave-era blast against the terrible, starchy politeness that characterised the British art scene. In a world of high theory and rigorously monochrome wardrobes, it was funny to say that you paid assistants to make your art "because I couldn't be fucking arsed doing it". Then, when stories of your millions were all over the press, and it came out that those assistants were extremely poorly paid, it seemed less funny. Now, in Hirst's current incarnation as house artist to the 1%, running some kind of Foxconn-style production line on his compound in Baja California, the cheeky chappie act has lost its last residue of charm.

This year may come to be seen as the high-water mark of Hirst's cultural power. On 4 April, a retrospective of his work opens at Tate Modern in London. In January, an exhibition of his "pharmaceutical paintings", canvases of varying sizes covered in uniform coloured dots, opened in all the Gagosian Gallery's 11 locations around the world. These are major shows, intended to underscore the status of an artist who, at least in the UK, seems to need no help in reaching an audience. The most interesting thing about them is the hints they drop about the new rules of the art world, and about the artist's future reputation, which is not as secure as it might appear.

As Hirst has become wealthier, his work, which (as Houellebecq points out) incessantly circles the twin poles of death and money, has lost the cocoon of edgy cool that sheltered it through the 90s, to emerge, like one of his murdered butterflies, in its full form: as a pure commodity, fluttering free of the things that tie most art down – aesthetics, geography, the specifics of material and manufacture. He has certain signature elements (dots, pills, dead things, shiny shelves, chunks of scientific text) that can be deployed, with minor variations, at every price point from major installation to souvenir mug. His thematic interests in pop culture, shock and replication make it easy to keep a straight face while he sells his dodgier diffusion lines in markets that haven't been saturated by the earlier "better" work – see, for example, the shameless recent series of National Geographic-style butterfly photos, punted out in Hong Kong, safely away from the derision that might have accompanied them in London or New York.

This isn't just art that exists in the market, or is "about" the market. This is art that is the market – a series of gestures that are made wholly or primarily to capture and embody financial value, and only secondarily have any other function or virtue. Hirst has gone way beyond Warhol's explorations of repetition and banality. Sooner or later, his advisers will surely find a way for him to dispense with the actual objects altogether and he will package concepts in tranches, like mortgage securities, some good stuff with some trash, to be traded on the bourse in Miami-Basel.

For the moment, Hirst still has to make things and we still have to look at them. The byproduct of his activities is the most starkly authoritarian corpus of art of recent times. All those hard, glittering surfaces, those rotting animals. The body, for Hirst, is trash, which exists to be anatomised, displayed, described in cribbed Latin names. The only way to cheat death is to slough off your rotting flesh and take on the qualities of capital. It's the 21st-century version of ars longa, vita brevis. Don't just make money, be money: weightless, ubiquitous, infinitely circulating, immortal.

The aspiration to break the bounds of the particular has always shown through in such Hirst titles as I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life, Everywhere, With Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now (his 1997 book) and Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, the 2008 Sotheby's auction where he sold $198m worth of art direct to the public, bypassing the galleries who represent him.

This drive to disembodied ubiquity is a message to the proles, to awe us, crush us, sap our will to resist. We, after all, are stuck in our stubbornly physical bodies, which we need to feed and clothe and shelter under conditions of ever-greater austerity and social discipline. We are faced with an enemy that seems impossible to kill. In For the Love of God, the grinning, diamond-encrusted skull that formed the centrepiece of Hirst's last London show before the 2008 crash, we behold the face of our masters. And in its failure to sell for its $100m asking price, we can detect signs of the invisible hand moving against the skull's Barnumesque creator. The world's most expensive contemporary artwork was eventually bought by a consortium that included the artist himself and his London gallery, White Cube. It was, in an important sense, a work that would not have been complete without a buyer, and its failure to sell would have been damaging to Hirst's prices, which in art, as in any other asset class, are highly dependent on investor confidence.

Investor confidence is the key to understanding the unprecedented Gagosian show of Hirst's spot paintings. Hirst's atelier has been turning these out at every scale since 1986, and by the artist's own estimate there are around 1,400 in existence, of which Gagosian was showing 300 under the faux-definitive title The Complete Spot Paintings. They are made by Hirst's assistants to a simple aesthetic rule – the colour sequences of the dots must be "random". The paintings are given the names of drugs: Amphotericin B, Cocaine Hydrochloride, Morphine Sulphate, Butulinium Toxin A, and so on. Many of them are technically difficult to execute, such as the piece completed for the Gagosian show that comprises 25,781 one millimetre spots that the poor bloody assistants had to paint without repeating any single colour. Examples have sold at recent auctions for between $800,000 and $3m. This is to say that they are valued like unique, individual works of art, yet are made in quantities – and using methods – that seem to deny this fiction. Thus one could make the case that they are significantly overvalued. Cue alarm in a lot of penthouse living rooms.

If I were Larry Gagosian (usually cited in power lists as the contemporary art world's most important player) and I wanted to help my top client shore up the value of a body of work that was losing its lustre as its fashionable 90s aesthetic began to look tired, and the penny started to drop among collectors that at every other dinner party they went to they saw something on the wall that looked awfully similar to the something on their own wall, what would I do?

Long-term value in the art world depends in a certain raw way on scarcity, but is largely produced through a delicate process by which aesthetic value (determined by curators and critics) intersects with market value, determined ultimately by auction prices. One point at which these two types of value intersect is in provenance. The story behind an object – its past owners, where it has been shown, its place in the story of the artist's career, and so on – confers both types of value. A landmark show, geographically dispersed in an unprecedented way, is bound to be remembered as a significant moment in Hirst's career as a global art star. When that show is accompanied by a critical apparatus, chiefly a catalogue raisonnée (a meticulously documented list of works shown, accompanied by scholarly essays), those works become part of a canon and a magical walled garden of significance is erected around them.

As Francis Outred, Christie's European head of contemporary art, told the Economist, this catalogue "could bring reassuring clarity to the question of volume". The pharmaceutical paintings are frankly too financially valuable to too many people for their actual status (banal, mass-produced, decorative) to intrude on the consensus fiction that they are scarce and important. The owners of the 1,100 paintings not in the Gagosian show should be nervous, though. They just lost their AAA rating.

Like any major artist, Hirst is not the only person to have a stake in his success. Gallerists, museums and auction houses have investments, reputations and income streams to protect. The people with the greatest interest in maintaining Hirst's prices are the collectors who have already invested in his work. These collectors include some of the world's most sophisticated speculators: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, the tiger shark in a tank that became the icon of 90s Britart, is, for example, now owned by the hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen, the founder of SAC Capital Advisers, who has $14bn under management.

This is how it works. A few major collectors make the market. Where they lead, the horde of hedgies follows. Many of the new breed of art investors (not Cohen, who is known to be a man of great taste and exquisite legal representation) have jettisoned even the pretence of connoisseurship. Some of these guys care about the bragging rights that come with a blue-chip work hanging in the loft. Others are all about the numbers, and employ the same tools and decision-making processes to play the art market that they use at work. A few have also discovered that many of the regulatory mechanisms that apply in other markets – preventing insider trading, price-fixing by cartels and sundry other abuses – simply don't exist in the art world. It is possible to game the system in many ways, and the careers of certain artists look not unlike a classical Ponzi scheme, where money from new investors is used to pay returns to those further upstream.

Will every collector who bought multimillion-dollar vitrines from Beautiful Inside My Head Forever see their works increase in value? Or will that value just accrue to the early-90s works on which Hirst's reputation rests, works held by the market-makers? How about those spot silkscreens, priced attractively at a few thousand pounds but produced in editions of a thousand or more? Do they have a future as anything more than wallpaper? It's certain that pieces such as the shark, which have a place in the story of 90s British art, will retain their value – even if it's not exactly the same shark, the original having rotted and been replaced in 2006. But with such a glut of Hirst out there, there's no doubt that some people are going to lose their shirts.

In this context, art museums find themselves in the eye of a storm. Nothing confers more value on an artwork than its selection for inclusion in a museum show. It is the definitive critical vote of confidence. This, of course, depends on the fiction that such decisions are made on pure, aesthetically disinterested grounds. As sophisticated investors enter the market and work out how the game is played, that particular story is wearing thin. This is not to say that the Tate shouldn't be showing Hirst. Its director, Nicholas Serota, attended Freeze, the 1988 student show that first brought the artist to public attention, and the Tate has consistently supported the "YBA" generation of which he is a part, helping to shape the explosion of interest in British contemporary art, not just among speculators but an art-loving public who pay entrance fees and buy nothing more expensive than a postcard.

However, Serota, like other museum directors, is expected to find money to run his institution from a variety of sources, including corporations and private individuals, and this makes museums vulnerable to pressure from those who wish to use them to confer value on their holdings. For many years, the Tate had a sponsorship relationship with UBS. One of the benefits received by the Swiss bank were regular Tate shows of works from its collection. Other major corporate collectors routinely negotiate similar deals. Deutsche Bank has relationships with institutions such as the Whitney and Guggenheim, unself-consciously declaring, in a press release accompanying a recent Georg Baselitz show in Italy, that the artist's work "constitutes an important part of the Deutsche Bank collection. Deutsche Bank acquired significant works by the artist as early as 1981 … In 1999, Deutsche Bank honoured him with the show Nostalgia in Istanbul at the Deutsche Guggenheim …"

The corruption of art museums by investors is perhaps most apparent in the case of New York's New Museum. In 2009 it devoted its entire three-floor space to an exhibition of the collection of Dakis Joannou, a Greek Cypriot industrialist who sits on the museum's board. Other recent New Museum shows, devoted to Urs Fischer and Elizabeth Peyton, also relied heavily on Joannou's collection, and his wider web of patronage. The impression has been given of a museum that is no longer able to make independent determinations of value. This has become an open scandal in New York, satirised in a much-reproduced drawing by William Powhida titled How the New Museum Committed Suicide With Banality, or "how to use a non-profit museum to elevate your social status and raise market values". Likewise, Hirst's major collectors will see an effective windfall from the inclusion of their works in a Tate retrospective, and other Hirst stakeholders will benefit too. That may not be why the show is happening, but it is not without significance.

Despite the financial crisis, contemporary art continues to soar in value. The unprecedented concentration of capital in the hands of the global elite means that the art market, being essentially a very high-end service industry aimed at generating a pleasurable experience of differential consumption, is weathering the storm very nicely. The Mei Moses index, a measure that largely relies on sales of paintings in London and New York, outperformed the S&P500 by nine points in 2011. New York magazine recently printed graphs (drawn on data from Artnet) that show Hirst's work outperforming contemporary art in general.

Other figures suggest the picture for Hirst is less rosy. In 2008, the year of Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, just over $270m-worth of his art was sold at auction, a world record for a living artist. His 2009 sales were 93% lower. Capital needs to be put to work, and a double-digit rate of return looks excellent in any economy. For the moment, Hirst's work is still an attractive investment, but market sentiment may move against him. The artist himself is undaunted. He recently announced that he has enlisted two assistants to paint 2m tiny spots on a canvas. He estimates that it will take them nine years to complete.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:24 pm

Damien Hirst – review

Tate Modern

In pictures: Damien Hirst retrospective

Adrian Searle

guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 April 2012 10.08 BST


Shocking and rich … A Thousand Years by Damien Hirst. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates/Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2012

Loitering behind the counter of Damien Hirst's Pharmacy, the Tate-owned 1992 room-sized installation that looks remarkably like an upmarket chemist's shop, I was interrupted by a gallery assistant. She stuck her head around the corner and then was gone. Maybe she wanted to buy some suppositories, but was too shy to ask.

I only came in here myself because I had a headache, after looking at all the eye-test dot paintings that punctuate Hirst's Tate Modern survey show, and catching the whiff from Crematorium, Hirst's 1996 ashtray – huge as a hot tub – filled with shovel-loads of old fag-butts and ash, drug-taking paraphernalia, sweet wrappers and swizzle sticks. I had also got down on my knees to sniff through one of the vents set in the glass walls of his A Thousand Years (1990), trying to determine whether it is a real rotting cow's head in there, lying in its pool of congealed blood. I got a face-full of ammoniac air, the smell of all those flies buzzing around, and the corpses piling up in the insecto-cutor where they are being zapped.

One wants to write a straightforward review of Hirst's work, but it is almost impossible. What would it be like, I wonder, for someone with no knowledge of his art, let alone his global reputation, to come along and review this show? What would they see? So much has already been said about Hirst, including a great deal by me. How can we see it fresh?

Tate curator Ann Gallagher has done her best to strip away the excess and repetition of Hirst's art, but it won't go away. It's what he does. The exhibition opens with works from his student years, the late 1980s. A row of pots and pans hangs on the wall, as in a kitchen, their undersides painted in jolly colours. An empty torso-sized MDF-and-Formica kitchen cabinet sits beside his first homespun spot painting, painted on board, which jostles with wonky, dribbly ovoids. Then come the first medicine cabinets, with their empty boxes and jars of pharmaceuticals. The first time I saw these I must have been wandering around with a clipboard, marking them as an external examiner on the Goldsmiths Fine Art degree course. This was 1989, the year after Hirst had curated his famous Freeze exhibition, and already he and his fellow students, and Goldsmiths itself, were famous.

Synthesising the kind of conceptualism-lite, post-pop appropriation and visual gags that many students (and not just at Goldsmiths) were working through at the time, Hirst was also assimilating his influences. These included Kurt Schwitters' collages, minimalism, Bruce Nauman, Jeff Koons's early Hoovers in their dust-free display cabinets, Jannis Kounellis (whose rotting ox carcasses, hung from rods, had been on stomach-churning display though a hot Barcelona summer in 1989) and Francis Bacon. The shadow of American artist Paul Thek was probably in there, too. Thek once decorated a wax arm with butterfly wings, as well as making boxes which housed what looked like raw meat. Like Hirst, Thek also conflated the plight of the body with religious iconography. Thek's career went off the rails and he died from Aids in 1988, the same year Hirst curated Freeze.

With its cow's head and flies, A Thousand Years comes not far into Tate Modern's show, Hirst's first in a British museum. Made the year after he left college, this double-vitrine was first shown in the warehouse group show Gambler, in south London. A Thousand Years is still extremely powerful, and still surprising. Clean and dirty, full of life and death, formally shocking and rich, it has an air of maturity and finality. In a recent interview for the exhibition catalogue, Hirst tells Tate director Nicholas Serota that it is still possibly the most exciting thing he has ever made. Hirst recalls that Lucian Freud said to him, about this work, that "I think you started with the final act, my dear."

Little else Hirst has made is comparable, except perhaps the large, sealed double vitrine from the following year, containing a desk, chair, ashtray and packet of cigarettes (The Acquired Inability to Escape), but even this has the feel of an extrapolation rather than a development. Hirst's shark, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, from 1991, seems to have shrunk, and here looks more like a specimen than an open-jawed threat. A recent second version is even smaller in its black-framed aquarium; it looks like a tame dogfish, and I can imagine a Ming vase filled with lilies parked on top of its glossy black tank in some collector's home.

There's an element of fun in earlier Hirst: the Sigmar Polke-inspired string of sausages in a formaldehyde-filled frame; the ping-pong ball floating on the updraft of a hairdryer angled to the ceiling. When he repeats this last trick some years later with an airborne beach ball, the idea has lost its lightness. And what, in theory, could be lighter than standing among swooping exotic butterflies in Hirst's 1991 installation In and Out of Love, the creatures hatching from pupae stuck to canvases and floating about the room, living and dying in the space? In reality, it's macabre. Some of their fellows are mired in the thick, gloopy monochromes on the walls of the room next door, which evidences the aftermath of the original show's opening party.


Mother and Child Divided, exhibition copy 2007 (original 1993). Photograph: Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2011./Tate/Tate Images

The rest is variation and repetition. Production, in other words: the business of being an artist, and art as business. Hirst's later work might be taken as a critique of the very market that supports him, and the people who buy his work – but I somehow doubt it. Flies begat butterflies, which begat more butterflies. Medicine cabinets begat a whole pharmacy, with endless little pills arranged on shelves. Cabinets begat cabinets, MDF and Formica being replaced by gold-plated steel, nickel and brass. You could stick anything in these cabinets of curiosities and vitrines: medical speculums, nasty operating theatre tools, row after row of man-made diamonds, sheep, cows, Havana cigars – now, why not a human corpse? (Go on, you know you want to.)

This exhibition charts a great descent in Hirst's art, one that mirrors the ascent of his bankability and the creation of ever more decadent and overblown artefacts. I have enjoyed some things – if enjoy is the right word for paintings covered in a crust of dead flies (one of which is here), but the returns have diminished with almost every show. Hirst may well think he is giving us what we deserve: an art of spectacle and the tokens of spectacular wealth. The show's last rooms are full of such things, among them a Carrara marble angel, whose exposed guts and skull are sculpted as tenderly as the feathers on her wings; a white-on-white spot painting whose edges are anointed with gold leaf; a pure white dove caught in flight in a limpid tank of formaldehyde.

The cloying ostentation of these rooms is surely deliberate, but does not make one want to linger. Lots of artists have made works with expensive materials but very few flaunt it the way Damien does. His later work might want to be an attack on the puritanism of a certain sort of highbrow taste, or it might be pandering to the vulgarity of super-rich collectors, or to the perversity of the art market and the place he has come to occupy in it. Maybe he wants it every way he can. Down in the darkened Turbine Hall, his diamond-encrusted platinum skull is displayed in a specially constructed black-box room. The theatricality of this is nauseating – or would be, if it weren't so silly and contrived.

Others have already weighed in with spite, gall and a fury quite out of proportion to the fact that Hirst is only an artist. There are some who look forward to his downfall. In 1991, reviewing In and Out of Love, I wrote that Hirst's work had enormous spirit and great originality, and that I was glad he was around. By 2009 I was writing that his recent paintings were "momento mori for a reputation" (the hapless paintings Hirst showed at the Wallace Collection that year have thankfully been passed over here). My problem with Hirst is not the money (Picasso made lots, and nobody cares), nor the vulgarity he has opted for, but his capitulation as an artist. He could have been so much better. It is an enormous disappointment.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:30 pm

Damien Hirst: the artist we deserve

Hirst's preoccupations – purposeless, plutocratic, even pharmaceutical – are the preoccupations of our age

Editorial

The Guardian, Friday 6 April 2012

It is not hard to run the argument that Damien Hirst's A-level art grade E was well-earned. Anyone bent on dismissing him will walk into his Tate Modern retrospective and find their ammunition. There are endless chemists' cupboards. There are the spots he outsources to other painters, and which – in terms of craftsmanship at least – make for an unflattering contrast with David Hockney and Lucian Freud, whose work is being exhibited elsewhere in the capital. And there is the pervasive sense of a joke being played on the crowd, a sense that has developed ever since the young Hirst said he wanted to get to the point where he could get away with bad art.

But glance into that crowd and it suddenly seems like folly to damn Damien too quickly. All around, people are looking – really looking – at objects in new ways, an important aim for any artist. Take the bisected cow and calf, Mother and Child Divided. You've seen many a cow and have also, perhaps, seen their organs in a biology book. But have your eyes ever darted between any animal's inner and outer body in quite this way before? Likewise the (in)famous pickled shark, which can look like a half-funny gag when seen on television, but which stirs into undead life when its gaping mouth is encountered up close and personal.

Nor is it all about empty appearances. There are also ideas at work in Hirst's art. The deeper question, though, is whether these ideas are anything but pernicious. The installation which hoisted Hirst into the big time, after Charles Saatchi snapped it up, involves specially bred insects being frustrated and killed in pursuance of the hideous object of their desire, a severed bovine head. The title, A Thousand Years, confirms the message of the grisly spectacle – "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods". Whereas in Shakespeare this is a chilling thought, Hirst revels in callous omnipotence. Throw in the bling obsession with gilded artifice, and this seems like a man whose defining mission is negating the Keatsian dictum about beauty and truth.

For those who cling to John Ruskin's ideal of an artist with "the responsibility of a preacher", Hirst is an affront. His ruthless defence of his own intellectual property combines with career-long allegations of plagiarism from less well-rewarded peers. But sometimes, as with the jewel-laced skull, Hirst's limitless lucre is the precondition to pulling off the idea. That is a fitting irony for a paradoxical man who insists that every work must "say something and deny it at the same time". A more self-confident era might expect its artists to say something solid instead, but Hirst's preoccupations – purposeless, plutocratic, even pharmaceutical – are the preoccupations of our age. He is, perhaps, the artist we deserve.

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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:45 pm

Damien Hirst's favourite art - in pictures

As part of his week-long digital takeover, Damien Hirst talks through some of the artworks that have influenced his career – from a William Blake work that reminds him of David Lynch to an unforgettable Francis Bacon

• Extracted from an interview with Damien Hirst in Tate Etc magazine

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 17 April 2012 10.57 BST





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Re: Damien Hirst

Post  eddie on Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:46 pm


William Blake, The Ghost of a Flea (c1819-20)
I always wanted to do big things when I was younger. I thought big is good ... So when I came across the Blake painting, I thought: 'What is it? It takes you in there. It's dark, and it's scary, and it has this huge scale.' Then you think: 'Where is the flea? What is the flea? Why is it the ghost of a flea?' It was probably the most frightening image I'd ever seen. It seduces you; it asks so many questions, but doesn’t answer them. I really enjoyed thinking about it and looking at it. I went back and saw it a few times. Later, I looked at all Blake’s work, but it didn’t have the same power as that image. It has that David Lynch feel to it, hasn’t it? Photograph: Tate

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