Retrospective @ Tate Modern runs from 4 April – 9 September 2012
Hennessy Youngman, a Brooklyn based artist, might have said it the best in his series, Art Thoughtz: Damien Hirst, when he describes Hirst’s recent spot paintings at the Gagosian galleries as a ‘perfect storm of banality’. Hirst’s art is a boring, irrelevant affect of his success and position in the art world; it is because of this that I
have saved myself a trip to Tate Modern, elected not to see his retrospective and opted to review his exhibition from the comfort of my home in North London.
I was recently asked the question of why and how Damien Hirst has become so extremely successful? Despite the overwhelming sentiment of nausea and rejection by my colleagues who are emerging curators, artists and gallerists, Hirst has achieved a retrospective at Tate Modern. I feel a sense of dismay when questioned about Hirst’s success, as if I should be able to offer some validation to his abundant and infectious presence in the elite and discriminating art world. I get a similar feeling of frustration when as an American I am asked to explain the US government’s involvement in the war in the Middle East. And yet I find the market for Hirst and the cost of war to be inflated beyond any sort of reasonable justification.
If we take the Modernist art critic, Clement Greenberg’s approach for being critically engaging with art, we should judge something for what it is – if you are presented with a painting you should measure its success as a painting. Much like a Kardashian, Hirst is a popular, wealthy, brand name. His ‘art’ (or ‘acting’ in the case of the Kardashians) has little to do with who he is or what he does. In order to appropriately critique Hirst we must judge him for what he is and not what he calls himself. Hirst is an artist with out art. Underneath the façade of ‘artist’ is
a banker and this is his core substance. To understand or appreciate Hirst’s ‘practice as an artist’ we should perhaps look to his financial manipulation of the secondary market at his 2008 Sotheby’s sale rather than discussing some deeper meaning of a shark suspended in a tank. Hirst is a conceptual artist, not in a 1960’s art historical sense like artists Sol Lewitt and John Baldessari, but Hirst’s ideas and concepts do exist and it is all about making money.
Despite the Marxian readings and influences from my masters in art degree, I do not consider myself anti-capitalistic. For example, Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who has been welcomed to the Western art world with her first retrospective at Tate Modern (which I did see), at the ripe age of 83, has deservingly achieved record-breaking prices
for her work. The main distinction is Kusama’s work has content that is exclusive of the market – her medium is not money.
I review Hirst’s retrospective at Tate Modern to be a success, as it sure to enhance the provenance on the works exhibited and thus further inflate their financial value. Damien Hirst, the banker, is a financial success and is the number one prostitute of the art world. Now I just wish he would just stop calling himself an artist.
Words By Jane Harmon Photo: © ArtLyst 2012