Tate Modern Retrospective Offers Hirst Memorabilia From £6.50 – £ 36,800
If the public wasn’t already aware that Damien Hirst’s name is synonymously linked with branding and money, Tate Modern has included a separate page inside the press pack relating to the exclusive merchandise available at the gallery for the larger than life Damien Hirst retrospective.
Some of the highlighted items are surprisingly modest in price, however a full range of pricing is not available on the sheet. The top priced examples given are for a silk scarf with either butterfly or pill images for £125 and other items decrease in value for a set of cards for playing pairs or snap with his iconic images for a mere £6.50.
Other available merchandise, not exclusive to the Tate, but sold through Hirst’s commercial arm, Other Criteria, reaches the dizzy heights of £36,800 for a plastic skull, in an edition of 50, painted in household gloss paint, in the style of one of his spin art paintings. Is this the bargain of the show, bearing in mind his works sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds or exploitative? As the public is aware Hirst has assistants to do the work for him, so what is the difference in this piece? Other Criteria describe it as: “Executed in 2008, this work is from an edition of 50 unique multiples. In this latest series of 50 painted skulls are three categories manifested as three variations of form: Hallucinatory Head, Hypnotic Head and Transcendent Head, with each skull a unique result of the now famous and highly sought after ‘Spin’ painting technique.” Another high ticket priced item is the set of limited edition signed ceramic plates at £10,000 for 12. You may also purchase unsigned examples for £25 along with mugs for £9.95.
In 2005 Damien Hirst, Hugh Allan and Frank Dunphy, under the creative directorship of Jason Beard, founded Other Criteria as a publishing company. The company is Hirst’s commercial arm and produces unique artworks, art publications, limited edition prints, photographs, jeweller and clothing by a number of different artists including David Bailey, Banksy, Michael Craig-Martin, Tracey Emin and others.
Back to the Tate Modern’s exhibition shop, the list of merchandise is extensive from a painted skateboard stamped with signature for £480, butterfly deckchairs for £310, a clock for £305, a choice of five different designs of wallpaper from £675 to £250 a roll and £250 for a pair of silver cufflinks. Also on sale are a variety of signed and numbered limited edition prints with prices that vary from £30,150 for a cathedral print down to £2,250 for an image of a single butterfly.
Hirst is all about the blatant commerciality of art and he stands to make millions from the merchandising alone. Never mind the success of the show in placing him alongside the masters of contemporary art, the shop proves more than anything that Hirst is a brand and as much a designer as an artist. What was missing from the choice of gifts was an action man style doll of Hirst in his definitive crouching pose. As for Other Criteria, they turned over £7m last year mostly on Hirst related limited editions and memorabilia. So who’s laughing all the way to the bank?