Hirst; they think it’s all over- is it, now?

Damien Hirst has continued his druggie/pardee/easy-teasy relationship with the unfortunate non-Damien Hirst World this week by – as is his want? – TAKING OVER.  He has gone smotheringly, ballistically wider and in your facier than his previous bigtime best, by commandeering space in 11 Gagosian galleries around the world simultaneously.  As always with the regal brit-popper, beneath this cultural blitzkrieg there is that subversive prickle within the detail – some of the works being provocatively titled, with hallucinogenic associations

Paintings being exhibited are entirely appropriate to the Hirst-obsession with WHAT THE MARKET WILL TAKE.  So this current ruse of (imagined?) flooding or testing our/THE MARKET’S capacity to engage is what it’s about.  As much as the paintings are.  Again.  Arguably.

This may on the one hand be a perfectly acceptable creative response, honourably reflecting Hirsts’s entirely legitimate and punkily energised worldview; (that) the Art Market is obscene/absurd/necrophiliac and it must be defrocked, demystified and disembowelled in a creative and entertaining way.  Or it may be another lazy spin of another formula designed at the Hirst Ruse Emporium, centreing again on his own importance; or does it challenge that too?

Hirst knows that the scale of the project and of his celebrity tanks these paintings in formaldehyde.  Indeed if a shocking generalisation were to crop up here it might be that Hirst’s ouevre is relentlessy concerned with his knowingness.  But in my view it would still be foolish to underestimate either his integrity or his concern with the making of worthwhile art.  Thus my own sloganeering is more in sympathy than in irony.

Interestingly, Adrian Searle in today’s Guardian seems clear that there is no discernible benefit to looking at these paintings as individuals – suggesting I think that this offers little reward, or no individual unique viewing experience, even though they are hugely different in dimension and subtly different in colour(s).  I disagree.  (If you are unaware of the nature of the paintings, now might be the time for me to tell you that they are all ‘spot paintings’ – arrangements of coloured dots along an imaginary grid system.  ‘Traditionally’, they are the kind of (arguably) abstract or conceptual painting that might demand a degree of contemplation from the viewer.)

I think the artist may argue that it is a travesty to suggest these paintings are in any way ALL THE SAME.  I think, however, that he seeks to lever out that very response, at whatever level, from his punter.  Hirst is standing again on the chest of the Market, crow-barring open its ribcage for fleeing or inveigling opinions – offensive or otherwise – to worm a way in or out.  The paintings – all made by assistants, I believe – are both a challenge as an understood group AND as individuals AND as a relevance (or otherwise.)  They are not to be dismissed without due consideration because that is a purpose of all art; to demand or engineer consideration.

So look at these paintings.   Allow yourself to feel them.  Is there anything there for you?  If so, what?  Have fun trying to work that out!  If nothing alights, firstly look some more then consider whether they make a contribution – uplifting/degrading or bland or quietly humming? – to an individual moment, or to an easy or a teasy conversation you might have… after too much wine, or some drugs maybe, at a noisy metropolitan party.

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2 thoughts on “Hirst; they think it’s all over- is it, now?

  1. The modern art market has become like some giant Ponti scheme, which depends on new money moving into art, buying any old stuff at inflated prices and so long as they do, those at the top of the scheme keep getting richer.

    We now inhabit a world where lucky individuals are chosen, sometimes seemingly irrespective of talent or the quality of their work . Once with the “in crowd” their pieces can suddenly command ludicrous prices for no better reason that it is displayed by certain galleries or collected by certain people.

    Hist is right to have a poke at the markets, but he is in a position to do so, only because he has been lucky enough to exploit them. No doubt some of his work is good and worthy, but like so many he seems to have become lazy and derivative, now he seems intent on biting the hand that feeds him, “because he can” almost becoming a sneering parody of himself.

    i am sure there have been a number of emperors new clothes moments with these artists, just not enough people have said it all together to hamper the sales of any new portfolio offerings.

    At the end of the day, those who paid big for the art are hardly likly to admit they were overcharged. It suits everyone to pretend the pieces are hugely valuable, the artist, the collector, the galleries and auction houses all look to profit from the illusion. So long as they stick together and the pretence holds, they are happy, Never mind the quality, feel the £ notes!
    “its not overpriced tat, its art darling, you just dont understand”? It is and I do!

    1. Hirst for some people epitomises all that is bad with the art market, maybe because (as I think I suggest?) his subject is so often his ‘knowingness’ ie. his place within it and ability to use it. I’m honestly not clear whether that makes him truly subversive and brilliant (sometimes) or lazy and just cynical or abusive of what art means (sometimes!) Either way he functions as one of the fortunate ones in a pretty repulsive scenario. The thing is to look at his art – the pictures, the installations – as well as the kerfuffle around it.

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