IT was revealed yesterday that Artist Damien Hirst faces eight new charges of plagiarism bringing into disrepute some of his best-known works including, ‘In the Name of the Father,’ ‘Pharmacy’, and his iconic spin and spot paintings. the latest of which were detailed today with claims that no fewer than 15 works produced over the years by the self-styled enfant terrible have been allegedly “inspired” by others. While Hirst has previously faced accusations that works including his diamond skull came from the imagination of other artists, the new allegations include his “crucified sheep”, medicine cabinets, spin paintings, spot paintings, installation of a ball on an air-jet, his anatomical figure and cancer cell images Often it is not who is first but the credit goes to who popularizes the subject.Charles Thomson, the artist and co-founder of the Stuckists, a group campaigning for traditional artistry, collated the number of plagiarism claims relating to Hirst’s work for the latest issue of the Jackdaw art magazine.
He came up with 15 examples, with eight said to be new instances of plagiarism. The tally includes the medicine cabinets that Hirst first displayed in 1989, and its development in 1992 – a room-size installation called Pharmacy.
“Joseph Cornell displayed a cabinet with bottles on shelves called Pharmacy in 1943,” said Thomson. Nor were Hirst’s spin paintings or his installation of a ball on a jet of air original, he said, noting that both were done in the 1960s.
Imitation may be flattery, but not when Hirst is taking both the financial and artistic credit for their ideas, say Lekay and Precious. LeKay has never sold anything above £3,500, while Hirst’s set of three crucified sheep was a reported £5.7m. Precious’s butterflies sold for £6,000 against Hirst’s version for £4.7m.
While Hirst is one of Britain’s richest men, LeKay cannot live off his art. Accusing Hirst of being dishonest about where he gets his ideas, he said: “He should just tell the truth.”
Although LeKay recognises that artists have always found inspiration in each other, he says the great ones adapt ideas to create works with their own individual and original stamp.
He said: “Damien sees an idea, tweaks it a little bit, tries to make it more commercial. He’s not like an artist inspired by looking inwards. He looks for ideas from other people. It’s superficial. Put both [crucified sheep] together and … it’s the same thing.”
In the 1990s, they were friends and shared exhibitions, which is when Hirst may have seen his sheep. Since then, LeKay has become more interested in Buddhism than material wealth, so he does not plan to seek compensation.
Most if not all of these allegations are difficult if not impossible to prove in a court of law but in some rare instances the truth is at least put on public record and the originators given the recognition they deserve.