My two (billion) cents on Hirst

by Titus OBrien September 15, 2008
The discussions around this whole Hirst auction thing already seem passé, even before the auction has happened, as if it was all years ago and you’re just rereading the coverage, having stumbled across it accidentally. And that in itself indicates something. A glitch in the matrix. So unremarkably inevitable. It’s like that story about United Airlines troubles from 2002 that recently got re-circulated online and caused a massive stock sell-off when everyone failed to notice the dateline. We live in bubbles and collective fantasies.

Ivan used the word nihilism to describe Hirst in his post. That seems fair. He looks to be the icon maker for a culture of death and greed. You could make the five-minute effort to discuss the meaning of his tropes, or figure out if this or that arrangement of butterfly or bovine corpses really works, but why bother? That obviously isn’t his point – they don’t bear that kind of scrutiny, and that’s not why anyone buys them.

Duchamp had a secretly Catholic mysticism at work, and wanted you to work a little for it (he was smarter than you, after all.) He spent a lot more time playing chess than making art, the former being much purer and unmarketable (his stated criteria, not mine). Warhol (devoutly, stubbornly Catholic) was a secret visual sensualist, and wanted to transmogrify the profane into the sacred, or at least substitute it. Hirst, all empty Church of England, devoid of meaningful ritual and hierarchy to rail against, takes sacred images to the disco morgue to drain their blood. Like the melodramatic protagonist in an Anne Rice novel, he seems to be secretly furious that he keeps getting so well rewarded for his apparent immortality, like he’s bitterly asking “Why do you keep buying? Don’t you fuckers get that I actually hate you? Let’s just see what you’ll shell out for this pile of shit I paid to have cast in solid gold.” It’s all downright Faustian…

He can do what he wants – but I couldn’t get out of my enormous gold-gilt bed overlooking my beach-front estate in the morning if that was all I had to say (and who wouldn’t like to face that dilemma?). And what he has to say still trumps however he chooses to distribute it – though that may help indicate his real concerns. Who really cares about market machinations? You’re a daisy if you do, quoth Kilmer’s Doc Holliday. Go crazy people. The blogspapers need their daily fodder. Ahem.

Why shouldn’t he sell at auctions? Rules are made to be broken. Good on ‘im. He’s certainly breaking all the rest, like those about being interesting, original, progressive, insightful, curious, passionate, or care-full. I know, I know, I’m so tediously attached to uncovering some flickering traces of the innate wonder and mystery of existence, don’t remind me, never mind me…

He’s at least pushing his shtick to collapse – he’s so rich now, who
cares if he just ruins himself. He seems pretty over it. Suicide
strikes me as the logical next step. In fact, that would maybe be a
more courageous stance than the one he’s ignominiously slid into. I’d
hold an affectionate wake. Maybe I’ll do that anyway. The Hirst is
dead. Long live the Hirst. Gild his teeth and nails (along with some lilies) and stick his body
in a tank already. Now that I’d go to see.




Trungpa Ricochet September 16, 2008 - 10:56

Another artist, whom I happen to admire, who has used the ploy, “I can’t believe you fookin’ wankers are still buying this stuff” to great success, is Banksy. Banksy

Trungpa Ricochet September 16, 2008 - 11:15

(cont’d from previous post) Banksy is also rich now. The BIG difference between him and Hirst is that Banksy has a social conscience. His work has its origins in site-specific tags of considerable wit, graphic skill, and often powerful irony. It is also characterized by bravado that makes railyard taggers look like sissies. (He could have been shot by Israeli soldiers while he put up his work on that hideous scar of a wall shutting out the Palestinians). Banksy has helpers, too, but he is not popping out “product”. He just has to place several pieces at a a time, so once the stencils are made, his assistants can put them up. He also has managed to make the transition from the street to the galleries without losing his mystique. I’ve seen quite a few New Yorkers change from anonymous tagger (tough mutt) to NAME BRAND (poodle). Banksy’s trick with his identity is very clever, and it has preserved his “cred”. The New Yorker ran a very good piece on him about six months ago.

Damien Hirst, like cocaine, is God’s way of telling people they have too much money.

David O September 16, 2008 - 13:59

Yeah but will the splasher make it to the galleries? That would rule.

tobrienwriter September 17, 2008 - 09:41

Aww, Banksy. He’s so cute!

theremin September 21, 2008 - 09:30

my favorite yba, simon patterson, seems to have chosen simply to fade away, and not burn out as hirst has. to claim duchamp was mystical, and not merely satirizing religion in some of his work is debatable, at best. if you buy the mysticism argument, you would also have to agree that he had an incestuous relationship with his sister, suzanne. it was yet another package deal that a. schwarz was eagerly peddling that privately angered duchamp. for this, duchamp chose to withhold information about l’etant donnes (although it was made public at the same time as schwarz’s book was being released), and purposely made “the complete works of marcel duchamp” incomplete, at his alleged expert’s expense.
warhol obviously was influenced by catholic iconography (although cheapened) in his mariliyns. no one is more catholic than the poles, including the irish.


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