Friday, October 30, 2009

Damien Hirst bucks his own trend

It will probably make me sound like a Philistine, but I've never understood the point of artists exhibiting readymades after Marcel Duchamp. When Duchamp exhibited a urinal in a gallery, which he had signed R. Mutt, it jarred the audience's usual categories of perception in a delightful way. It certainly didn't hurt that Duchamp was a brilliant artist. The problem is that, after nearly a century of lesser artists exhibiting all manner of crap that they brought in from their trash, the joke has worn thin. How long can we be expected to laugh at the corny Uncle's whoopee cushion?

So, to me, Damien Hirst has always been the sort of artist whose work rich sods buy in order to pretend that they're in on the joke. Some of his work is impressive- I quite like the diamond covered skull/Memento Mori in 2007. But, quite a bit of it amounts to... well, dead animals in formaldehyde. It's a bit of an adolescent fart joke really.

Hirst has recently turned to painting- actual painting, not hiring other people to paint or spin painting- and the results have enraged critics. He's not much of a painter, and the weird thing is that he's the most successful artist in the world, and is only now, in his 40s, exhibiting his first real paintings. You've got to give him credit though- it would be very easy in his position to act like Jeff Koons and keep showing the poseur-friendly horseshit until the end of time, or pretense. Hirst actually stuck his neck out, poor thing.

It must be that the critics are sick of his formaldehyde animals and dot paintings and this is the inevitable backlash. But the thing about backlash is that it tends to follow ridiculously overblown hype; people are angry mostly at themselves for having jumped on the bandwagon in the first place. We're at the end of the Age of Hype now- glitz and bullshit has been overvalued for the last decade, at least, in nearly every area of Western endeavor. Art, Capitalism, Entertainment, Politics- people are a bit sick of all the bursting bubbles. Poor Damien Hirst is getting splattered at the wrong time- just when he's ready for adult effort.

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