135 Journals Art Corner. Damien Hirst: The Emperor Has Spots

29 Oct
Cartoon about Damien Hirst's spots

Here, I provide incisive art history analysis on Damien Hirst.

Because I am currently obsessed with art and I had time to kill, the other day I checked out some galleries in SoHo. There was one with some very beautiful nature photographs and sculptures of demon-headed naked men. That was kind of awesome—not sure I’d want to have a demon-headed naked man in my dining room, say, but as demon-headed naked men go, this was definitely top notch. Actually, Mr. Me and I discussed the demon headed men and thought it was too bad our kids were grown up because it would be really fun to put a demon-headed man next to the bathroom and only have a nightlight next to it to amuse ourselves with their middle-of-the-night screams. But then we realized the joke would be on us because they’d still be in diapers. In their 20s.

Then I went to another gallery had all pop art made by two Brooklynites using their “street sensibility” to art. “Taking it to a new level,” the gallery assistant said enthusiastically of the graffitoed pieces of rough wood and stolen(?) street signs and pieces of chain link fences.

But the art really made me scratch my head and say “What the Hell” was the ouvre of Damien Hirst. This apparently very famous and serious artist seems to have commandeered what was once known as a circle and painted a series of pictures of spots. The spots are in various bright colors. Some paintings have one spot, some have nine (I think) or twelve. There was one painting in this series that was offered for the low, low price of $96,000. If you don’t have that kind of cash lying around, there were also two paintings of four dots each for a much more reasonable price. One of them was $3,500. The other was $3,850. I wondered what that extra $350 was about. Was one of the dots more magical than the one in the other painting? They all had names like Biphenol and Arginosuccinic Acid. Maybe that made them worth the price. He also had some drawings for sale that looked as if they were done by a six year old with a spirograph.

Now, dear reader, I am sure that some of you think that $96,000 for  spots on canvas is a steal. And, as I consulted my good friend, the internet, later, I found out it was. The price of Damien Hirst’s artwork has been declining in recent years. (see http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/hirstonomics-how-damien-hirst-became-a-cash-cow-again-8874714.html). How could I have forgotten that Damien Hirst is famous for, among other things, his dissected-sheep-in-formaldehyde series? Naturally, the artist has a fortune estimated at 215 million pounds, which is like, what 350-400 million pounds in American? (I could check it if I could bear to face the reality). But fret not–some say the value of his work will return. As the Independent’s article said, “Hirst’s retrospective at Tate Modern last year, featuring a rotting cow’s head and the Bristol-born artist’s £50 million diamond-encrusted human skull, attracted 463,000 visitors, confirming that public interest in his work remains high.”

Honestly, I often like modern and abstract art. But it’s hard for me to keep a straight face ( as the workers in the gallery did, to their credit) when I’m looking at paintings of freaking symmetrical spots. I will say I looked him up on the Internets (check out http://www.damienhirst.com/home) and some of his stuff is more interesting than the Spots, although other things seem kind of nonsensical as well. But I do seem to remember a story about an emperor who had no clothes. There’s definitely canvas there. There’s definitely real paint. But are paintings of regular old dinner-plate sized spots really art? I sure as hell hope so. Because I, too, can paint circles. And I could give any of you at least a 50 percent discount on the 96,000 buck painting.

Oh, and I figured out one reason this guy is such a genius. I thought about the one-spot paintings. If you were so inclined to buy one, which one would you buy? Two seemingly identical items, except in different colors. If you bought the less expensive one, wouldn’t you feel subtly ripped off somehow, as if you weren’t getting the best quality spot? And if you bought the more expensive one, wouldn’t you feel a little bit ashamed of yourself for getting a worse deal? Would people know the difference? And if they did, what would it say about you?

Writing Prompt: Imagine the most crazy idea you can for a piece of “conceptual” modern art.

2 Responses to “135 Journals Art Corner. Damien Hirst: The Emperor Has Spots”

  1. ABC D Puppies October 30, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    We are inviting you to Dot Day at school next year.

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