27 October 2009

Damien Hirst excoriated

Damien Hirst is perhaps one of the most well known post-modernist artists, who would have remained obscure had Charles Saatchi not bought his work. He's known for creations such as "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living", basically a shark in formaldehyde. He devised diamond encrusted skulls ("For the Love of God"), preserved and dissected a cow and calf and even commented on the 9/11 attack as such "You've got to hand it to them on some level because they've achieved something which nobody would have ever have thought possible, especially to a country as big as America. So on one level they kind of need congratulating" before apologising to the families and friends of the victims.

I find it all quite vile. Hirst appears to worship death, so perhaps the irony of his latest works is that they have lent themselves to the death of his career. Perhaps art critics were waiting for the day to excoriate Hirst, for having little more than imagination and the patronage of those with the aesthetic values of rats. Hirst handed them the day, and they went for it like sharks.

Jonathan Jones in the Guardian says it beautifully as follows:

"Hirst's exhibition is a stupefying admission of defeat, a self-obliterating homage, that reveals the most successful artist of our time to be a tiny talent, with less to offer than even the most obscure Victorian painter in the Wallace Collection"

You see Hirst has painted, it has been exhibited, and it shows he cannot paint. Many have said so in damning terms:

Peter Conrad in the Observer: "Bumptiously confronting Titian, Poussin and other venerable elders at the Wallace Collection, Hirst is enjoying his temporary ownership of the trampled, desecrated earth. But he's not a legitimate heir and the Wallace Collection is playing host to a jumped-up pretender."

Mark Hudson in the Daily Telegraph: "Hirst's presumption in comparison with the technical inadequacy of the work was simply unforgiveable. For once, chutzpah wasn't enough."

Tom Lubbock in The Independent: "Hirst, as a painter, is at about the level of a not-very-promising, first-year art student" and how about why there is attention at all given to Hirst? "A few quick questions. 1. Are these new paintings, painted by Damien Hirst himself, any good? No, not at all, they are not worth looking at. 2. So why are you writing about them at such length? Because he is very famous. 3. And why has the Wallace Collection decided to exhibit them? Because he is very famous. 4. And why did Damien Hirst even paint them in the first place? Because he is very famous."

The Times "The paintings are dreadful. Think Francis Bacon meets Adrian Mole."

Jones concludes that Hirst himself has now shown this age of art to be a fraud:

Hirst has said: I want to be compared directly with the old masters, on their own turf, in their own visual language. In his eyes, it would seem that all the readymades, all the vitrines – all the ideas that have made him rich – are not real art at all. They are substitutes for the art he wishes he could make. The one truly great art, in his eyes, is the high western tradition of oil painting.

He can't do that at all; can't paint his way out of a paper bag. But don't kid yourselves. It is not just Hirst who is implicated in this exposure. It is an entire idea of art that triumphed in the 1990s and still dominates our culture – an entire age of the readymade stands accused by its own creator of being a charade.

Ouch. So well deserved, may the charade be well and truly over. Do I see Tracey Emin hiding looking confused as to what to do next?


Anonymous said...

A case of the emporers new clothing. Actually his butterflies weren't too bad but were they worth the half million plus pounds that people were paying for them? Anyway people were putting butterflies that were just as impressive on their houses in Wainuiomata back in the 60's. The skull. It is supposed to be a metaphor for human greed. In the end it must have been too tacky for collectors and didn't sell on the open market so some sort of consortium that included Hirst bought it. Sort of like taking in your own washing to survive. But perhaps this latest controversy is all part of Hirst's plan to continue to be noticed. That can't be a bad thing in a world that is accepting of just about anything that is churned out and called art.

Anonymous said...

If art was simply about painting then, yes he probably would be a mediocre artist. But art is much more than just that. Sculpture, mixed media, photography, dada cubism and all the rest that goes to make up art. Many of those excoriating Hirst will be wannabe artists themselves or are simply envious of the wealth he has amassed. As for those who have bought his works they are written off as those with the aesthetic values of rats. Amazing that all of Hirsts success was down to Charles Saatchie. Can't help but feel that much of this is about good old fashioned jealousy. Life was so much simpler when we just put a print of a Constable on the wall.