David Hockney Lashes Out At Damien Hirst

British painter condemns Hirst’s use of assistants to create artwork: but is Hockney out of touch?

David Hockney has spoken out against Damien Hirst for using a large number of assistant to create his work. This was during his first public statement since being included in the 2012 nominations for the royal Order of Merit, in which he argued that it was ‘insulting to craftsmen, skilful craftsmen’ for an artist to employ others to create their artwork. This opinion has been further broadcast in a new poster for the Royal academy exhibition of his landscapes which reads:  ‘All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally’

Hockney, one of Britain’s most celebrated painters of the last century, acknowledged that ‘you can teach the craft, it’s the poetry you can’t teach’, but lamented at how art schools exclusively ‘try to teach the poetry and not the craft.’ For him, great art needs to be created through the full follow-through of human creative processes: ‘you need the eye, the hand and the heart’. But is Hockney out of touch in this line of thinking? Deploying a team to create work is not simply the pursuit of big buck artists like Hirst, Koons, and Kapoor. Even Grayson Perry – the great contemporary champion of the craftsman (see Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman @ BM) – is happy to commission his tapestries to be made by art manufacturing companies. For him, he sees nothing wrong in using specialist teams to create work that would otherwise be beyond individual artists.

Then again, this is quite obviously different to the attitude of Damien Hirst who deploys teams to generate volume rather than quality. He abstains from making his spot paintings, for example, because his finds it boring to do the detailed work. As a result, of 300 spot paintings to be internationally exhibited next week, only five were produced by the artist.

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