Thursday, June 19, 2008

Damien Hirst Is Not An Artist But He Is Cunning

(image via bbc)

No, Damien Hirst is not an Artist -- with a capital "A" -- but he is clever like a fox (The Corsair gravely sips a a 1992 Batard-Montrachet). Hirst knows precisely how to tickle the clitoris of the contemporary art world so as to get what he wants. Nestled comfortably at the Art G-spot, Hirst is presently on a tear, producing, at bacterial velocity, art-stunt after goddam art stunt to feed the beast that is the massive living spaces of the new, Eastern art patrons (Or, hereafter: NEAPs). Contemporary art, generally speaking, is far too complicated and nuanced an arena for most Russian oligarchs, Chinese billionaires or Middle Eastern princes flush with petrodollars to ever understand. They simply don't have the time and their newly-rich wives simply don't have the taste.

But they, thumoeideutic, have what economists call a "felt-need" for the status conferred by contemporary Art. So what is one to do? Art stunts are big and bold, just like the thumoeideutically robust billionaires from the East presently swooping down on the art market. Damien Hirst has found a way to market exclusively to those low, reptile tastes that are instrumental to the oligarch's business acumen. "Now THIS," one can almost hear the oil baron saying to the diamond skulls or the formaldehyde shark, "THIS is really something." It recalls the brilliant Max Von Sydow yelling at Daniel Stern in Woody Allen's Hannah and her Sisters, "I don't sell my work by the yard!" If only he did, he'd be boffo in Moscow ...

And as those rich and tasteless fools drive up the prices of the "Art-stunts," their value rises. And if there value rises, they are -- at least in a democratic, capitalist way of doing things -- better than better-crafted works on more complex themes by, say, Picasso or Raphael or Titian. Let's not even talk about the poor contemporary artists who actually have talent and are working on visionary themes that don't involve the use of formaldehyde or diamonds. Those poor, brilliant bastards are plain out of luck. Money, not taste, is the new measure. Dispatches from the empire in decline. From The Observer:

"Last week, we told you about Esquire's new column by author and academic Stephen Marche, the first installment of which focuses on the return of the skull as a fashionable, and sometimes pricey, cultural commodity. The article cites a diamond-encrusted platinum skull that original Young Bullshit Artist—er, we mean, Young British Artist, Damien Hirst sold for $100 million in 2007. Now, the 43-year-old international art sensation has some new pieces up for sale at astronomical prices. Reuters, which describes Mr. Hirst as 'one of contemporary art's most bankable stars,' reports that Sotheby's is set to auction off a series of his extravagant works in London this September. The expected hot ticket item? 'A bull in a glass tank of formaldehyde with its head crowned by a solid gold disc and its hooves and horns cast in 18-carat gold' that's expected to sell for as much as £12 million. Paintings, cabinets and drawings will also be up for sale."

Like we said: Pretty. Fucking. Cunning. What self-respecting Russian oligarch couldn't see the "beauty" of "hooves and horns cast in 18-carat gold?" Such shit speaks directly to the negative spaces of the oligarch's massive dachas on the Black Sea. And the astronomical price Hirst will no doubt command will be his argument -- as he's laughing to the bank -- that yes, what he does Is "Art." The money makes it so.

Even though we know it to be naught else but utter bullshit.

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