Image Credit: Clive Arrowsmith
Critics, journalists and viewers alike have always loved to hate Damien Hirst. If one thing unites contemporary art dialogues, it is the sport-like nature of bashing his artistic and business endeavours. Controversial and deliberately provocative, he is now arguably more recognised for his soundbites and attitude to the relationship between art and commerce than he is for contributions to modern art.
Image Credit: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living – Saatchi Gallery
Damien Hirst has spent the last twenty years becoming one very savvy businessman. In 2007, For the Love of God – a skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds – sold for £50 million. And in 2008 Hirst auctioned 223 items of work for a record £111 million. Hirst has worked tirelessly to retain profits from his sales and has averted commission and profits from collectors and dealers. Some critics argue that his ability to command high prices for his work, and his unabashed pursuit of cash directly correlates with a decline in quality, relevance and true artistic integrity – and that his days of innovative and notable contributions to the Young British Artists movement are long over.
He is also gifted in his ability to wind people up. We’d need to devote many paragraphs to cover every action or soundbite that has rubbed someone up the wrong way but highlights include accusations of plagiarism, the claim he only painted five of his spot paintings because he ’couldn’t be fucking arsed doing it’, distasteful comments about 9/11 and selling kits (for thousands of pounds) so people can paint their own spot paintings. There’s something about this brashness and a perceived lack of talent that gets critics in a spin.
Image Credit: Andrew Testa/The New York Times
Most damning of recent critiques has come from respected commentator Julian Spalding, who claims Hirst’s works have, ‘no artistic content’ and are ‘seriously worthless’. Spalding goes so far as to urge collectors to sell up before the artist’s bubble bursts, in a book (yes, an entire book) subtly entitled Con Art: Why you ought to sell your Damien Hirsts while you can.
This major retrospective has again raised questions about how we value Damien Hirst’s work. How will these works stand up in the years to come? Do they warrant a retrospective at the Tate? Do we find it too hard to separate the man from his work? Will his work have a lasting impact or is he just one enormous, untalented git? We’d love to hear what you think of Damien Hirst’s artwork in the comments below.
The Damien Hirst Retrospective runs from 4th April – 9th September at the Tate Modern, London.
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