Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Damien Hirst

British conceptual artist Damien Hirst's installations of animals preserved in formaldehyde stirred controversy when they were created in the 1990s, but made his reputation. Here he is posing in front of some of them: "The Incredible Journey" (top), "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" (center), and "In His Infinite Wisdom" (bottom). Hirst has since done a series of medicine cabinets, one of which sold for 9.65 million pounds, making him the most expensive living European artist (and what some consider one of the most over-valued). From the news reports, Hirst can be a bit touchy. He ended his relationship with long-time collector Charles Saatchi in 2003 and sold a complete show at auction in 2008 rather than through his long-standing galleries - a move that garnered him a record-breaking $198 million.
My quibble is not about whether or not Hirst's works should be considered art. In my opinion, if the artists say it is art, you have to take them at their word - as proven by Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) in 1961 (and many others subsequently). My issue is with the permanence of the artwork, if that is what is intended and being paid for by the patron. In Manzoni's case, the cans began to disintegrate; with Hirst's, his iconic shark rotted in its vitrine and had to be replaced first with a model, and then with a properly injected shark.
But back to the exorbitant prices he puts on his works, Hirst has valued a set of pencils that were stolen from a recent installation at half a million pounds! This in an ongoing feud with a graffiti artist named Cartrain. Hirst objected to the inclusion of images of his own piece - a diamond-encrusted skull entitled "For the Love of God" - in the teenager's collaged portraits of him, and demanded that the works be seized and the profits (200 pounds) be forfeited. In revenge, Cartrain swiped the rare pencils from Hirst's installation "Pharmacy" at the Tate and held them for ransom, threatening to sharpen them unless his collages were returned. The boy was arrested and may be convicted of one of the highest valued art thefts in modern Britain. One journalist suggests, "Perhaps the artist is considering legal action as a new (and lucrative) form of conceptual art."

1 comment:

  1. Damien Hirst is one of the ultimate satirists. The joke is on us for loving the image of the still life. The idea of death being feared in most cultures - he is the anti-Jeff Koons - yet still proves to be the ultimate optimist.


You may add your comments here.