In Unrequired Reading last week, I posted Clive Crook’s praise for Damien Hirst, who is auctioning off some of his “art” in the biggest auction ever for a living artist, or something. Crook didn’t praise Hirst’s art qua art; rather, he praised Hirst’s ability to get stupid rich people to blow millions on his products:
I am a huge admirer of Damien Hirst. Not of the art, which is rubbish, but of the sheer productivity and exuberance he brings to his life’s work of fleecing rich idiots. “Oh Damien, you’re a genius. Screw me over again.” “Why not,” he says, munching a bacon butty.
Art critic Robert Hughes is less cheery about this prospect. It’s not that he feels badly for the rich people who are spending multimillions on Hirst’s work; rather, he has a more conventional pissed-off-edness about what Hirst’s products say about contemporary art:
If there is anything special about this event, it lies in the extreme disproportion between Hirst’s expected prices and his actual talent. Hirst is basically a pirate, and his skill is shown by the way in which he has managed to bluff so many art-related people, from museum personnel such as Tate’s Nicholas Serota to billionaires in the New York real-estate trade, into giving credence to his originality and the importance of his “ideas”. This skill at manipulation is his real success as an artist. He has manoeuvred himself into the sweet spot where wannabe collectors, no matter how dumb (indeed, the dumber the better), feel somehow ignorable without a Hirst or two.
Which is to say, give Hughes a read, too!
(I gotta get around to reading his memoirs sometime. . .)