Damien Hirst: a genuine artist?

Is this really art?

After spending a couple of hours meandering through the exhibits of the current Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern, I have to admit I remain ambivalent about Hirst’s competence as an artist. The exhibition is an astonishing journey through the developmental phases of Hirst’s career. He is a master at capturing your attention, he has an extraordinary sensitivity to the use of colour, space and material, he is a master in the use of shock-tactics, but my lasting impression is one of an entrepreneur who has successfully exploited a niche in the market, supported by a team of jobbing-artists, who have patiently pieced  together a range of exhibits that position Hirst more as an expert museologist than a creative artist.

However, his exhibition is still worth a visit. You will be talking about for weeks afterwards.

Fly-covered cow’s head

Diamond-encrusted skull worth £50m

One of hundreds of spot paintings

Butterfly stained glass

Shark in formaldehyde


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on May 31, 2012, in Aspects of Britain, Miscellany and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Not sure what I think of the art. A little different.

    • If you are used to traditional art galleries or museums with exhibits displayed according to tried and tested patterns, this does not conform in any way. But it’s worth the effort to stretch yourself beyond the bounds of expectation.

  2. Frank, you might like Michel Houellebecq’s “The Map and the Territory” (or you may not). The central character is an “artist”, but as viewed through Houellebecq’s jaundiced eye. He references Hirst, as described in this Guardian piece: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/mar/16/damien-hirst-art-market

    I like Houellebecq a lot – I think he’s a bit like Hirst. Both of them make me smile. They’re cheeky.

    I love the skull and the stained glass. The spots I can live without.

    • In an art world that is now driven by money, collectors and investments, Hirst features as a cheeky entrepreneur who has made his cash, and could now run off with the profits. The fact that the general public is still in awe of his skills, says more about the general public than Hirst himself.

  3. With the factory line of spot paintings he’s certainly been successful at exploiting the monied gullible. Sadly they remind of long since defunct budget airline Go! rather than pharmaceuticals.

    I do like the butterflies though. I saw a Hirst exhibition featuring them at church in the City of London a few years ago (St Michael’s on Cornhill I think). It was certainly an impressive setting for them and for me were the standout pieces of work.

    • I agree entirely. His butterfly art is absolutely stunning, though the thought of how he acquired the butterflies and how he used them for the sake of art, leaves some important questions to be asked.
      Like the curate’s egg, some of the exhibits were very good……………….

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