11 April 2012
By Michael Holland
Damien Hirst first hit the headlines in 1988 when he conceived and curated Freeze, an exhibition of his work and that of his Goldsmiths College friends, staged in a Bermondsey warehouse, while since then, Hirst has gone on to become one of the most talked about artists of his generation.
This is the first substantial exhibition of Hirst’s work and has created as much discussion as he usually does, divided the art world as he usually does, with Brian Sewell leading the opposition as he usually does.
Hirst is now big business, we see his Spot Paintings recreated in fashion, in design and on a boat that cruises the Thames; almost everyone is aware of Hirst’s shark and his bisected animals; Peter Blake has referenced his work in his own art and who hasn’t craved a piece of Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull?
Damien Hirst said he wanted some distance from the actual art-making process, so for his Spin Paintings he poured paint onto a rotating canvas from above, letting the motion do the work; for his Medicine Cabinets series he used songs from The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks album for titles so that he did not even have to concern himself with that; maggots, flies, and a cow’s head do the work for him in A Thousand Years 1990, and in others it is sheep and sharks.
These days his team does the painting and the laying out of pills or surgical instruments, or whatever else he decides should be displayed in elaborate cabinets in the pursuit art, so, unsurprisingly, there are those that ask if it is actually art that comes from the Hirst production team if Hirst himself does not partake in the creation of it other than thinking up an idea.
‘Is it art?’ was the question I posed myself as I walked round the exhibition and could not answer it - My mum has a medicine cabinet no different from those on display here.
People queued to walk between the two halves of the cow, and not one of them looked like they were experiencing a ‘moment’ such as the feeling that occurs when you reach the middle of Richard Wilson’s 20:50 or stand amid Anthony Gormley’s Mersey Men. What I do know is that thousands of people are queuing up to pay £14 each to see this, and then spending a similar amount as they exit through the gift shop.
The artist was supposed to have recently said that he was looking forward to the day when he is so famous that he can put out crap and sell it for a lot of money. Many will say he reached that point many years ago. Me, I think it is nice work if you can get it.
Damien Hirst is now an icon who has created some of the most iconic work of recent times. If he has achieved that then the question of whether it is art or not is irrelevant.
Tate Modern, Bankside, SE14
April –9 September 2012?
Admission £14 (£12.20 concessions)
or £15.50 (£13.50 concessions)
and 22.00 on Friday to Sunday?
Information and tickets:
www.tate.org.uk or 020 7887 8888
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