At first reading, I was a bit relieved, even a bit, OK, euphoric that the London Times trashed Damien Hirst’s newest art exhibit at the Wallace. The paintings as the critic states are “dreadful.” From the illustrations I’ve seen online, they resemble the velvet paintings my brother and I crafted during early adolescence. At the same time, I admire Hirst's return to actual painting, versus managing a warehouse of assistants who turned out replicas of his work. As has been much reported, the majority of the thousands of works Hirst ‘created’ over the past few years has been at the hands of some anonymous apprentice. Granted other artists use assistants, especially for large installations, but Hirst turned help to factory hands.
In an interview 10 days before the show opened, the interviewer asked, “How do you think the new paintings will be received?” Hirst's response? “I’m expecting to get slagged off,” he says under his breath, as if it would tempt fate to say it louder. “But you know what Warhol said, ‘If critics say they don’t like something, just make more.’ ”
Some of my snide euphoria may be because Hirst has made millions from his art. Just last year, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, Hirst’s sale of 223 works at Sotheby’s, raised £111m. For that sale, Hirst cut out his long-time galleries (and their respective margin) from the sale. The move did seem openly mercenary especially as Hirst didn’t need the money and a few of the galleries supported him when he was a nobody.
But, for Hirst, art might not have a goal more profound than profit. “There are lots of ways of measuring success beyond the financial,” explains Hirst. “It’s not really the money that I like, it’s the language of money. People understand money. There are people who might have dismissed my work who can’t any more.”
Well, maybe, but it sounds like this time around, money or no money, his art is being dissed if not dismissed.
Here's a short poem by Jennifer Harding titled "poem for the alter identity of damien hirst:"
he saw his friend
as a man who could talk openly
about his heart.
until one day,
he told himself that perhaps
he was mistaken
concerning the presumption put into his head.
making believe he knows alot
when in fact
he knows nothing.