Damien Hirst (1965–2012): In Memoriam

Gagosian Gallery hosts a display of the late artist's spot paintings

Damien Steven Hirst, the world's richest artist ($332 million according to Britain's Sunday Times), full-time businessman, part time art-collector, sometime restaurateur, P.T. Barnum imitator, and most famous member of the Young British Artists (or YBAs), a creative covey who came to prominence in the 1990s, died last Thursday, January 12, in New York following complications from acute diverticulitis brought on by a swinishly speculative, grossly cynical, intellectually constipated effort to pinch out 11 concurrent exhibitions of rehashed expensive crap. He was 46.

Coming merely a day after the press preview for his recent multi-venue extravaganza titled "The Complete Spot Paintings: 1986–2011" at Larry Gagosian's glut of global galleries (three in New York, two in London, and one each in Beverly Hills, Rome, Athens, Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong, and Moscow), and only months before his two-decade retrospective at London's Tate Modern (scheduled for April 4), Hirst's sudden death surprised fans and critics alike. One grumbler (who preferred obscurity to legend) quipped: "It was bound to happen. Call it the physical impossibility of living in the mind of someone brain-dead. There's absolutely nothing formaldehyde can do about that." The artist, who once famously noted that a banana stuck in dog doo could easily pass for his own art, might have himself concurred.

For a figure as conspicuously obsessed with mortality as Hirst, his newest grab for fortune and artistic notoriety proved a suicidal strain. Consisting of more than 300 paintings of colored dots on white backgrounds that his dealer strong-armed back from more than 100 international collectors, Hirst's most recent exhibition-as-an-oompapa-stunt became only the latest in a series of grasping gambles he designed—as he put it after his 2008, $198 million, one-man Sotheby's auction—to "go out with a bang." Unlike Oscar Wilde, who in death literally erupted all over his hotel room like an Icelandic volcano, Hirst's final wheeze (if we consider this last act of windiness forensically) passed with a squeak more resembling a gassy whimper.

Hirst and assistants' Moxisylyte, 2008–2011
(C) Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2011. Photography by Prudence Cuming Associates
Hirst and assistants' Moxisylyte, 2008–2011

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Gagosian Gallery

522 W. 21st St.
New York, NY 10011

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Chelsea

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Rather than slake his storied avarice, Hirst's mounting millions merely spurred on more dangerously covetous behavior, masquerading largely as a bond trader's strategy for producing investment-grade meta-art. There was the 2007 platinum-and-diamond-studded skull, For the Love of God, which—if you believe Andy Warhol was a natural blond—sold to a global "consortium" (that included Hirst himself!) for $100 million. There was the artist's aforementioned big auction-house adventure; and, finally, there was Hirst's worldwide spectacular of spots on the wall—an artistic concept the Briton contested in life with Chinese expressionist painter Hu Flung Du. The courtroom fights were genius!

Despite Hirst's past promise to not make any more spot paintings—at Gagosian's salons and elsewhere, they feature monotonous rows of colored enamel dots on white canvases, nothing more—he persisted till the end on presenting a uniform line of product-like-objects he personally "couldn't be fucking arsed" to make himself. Brushed on by some 100-plus studio assistants for the amusement of the Tod's loafers set—i.e., the Michael Hedgefunders and Boris Plutocrats of the world—these color-by-numbers paintings represent the artist's sweetbreads heaved fresh and warm at the upper reaches of an art market that likes its transgressions, predictably, on the rich side. Prior to Hirst's death, the temptation flourished to consider this far-flung exhibition (not the art) an ironic beard for his market manipulations (his real art). After his untimely passing, groupies (of both the Rip Van With It and Art-Is-a-Foolproof-Asset varieties) remain convinced of the artfulness of this vision.

Hirst, the waiting biopic tells us, was born in Bristol to working-class parents who later separated. Brought up in scrappy Leeds by his no-nonsense mother, Mary, he had his rebellious streak mercilessly gelded when she cut up his bondage trousers and melted his favorite Sex Pistols' album. ("She put it on the gas, and it just went whoosh!—because it said 'bollocks.'") On turning 18, the artist moved to London, where he attended Goldsmiths's art school (until recently, Britmouth for Yale or Columbia). He studied there, worked construction, and, in time, organized an exhibition of young artists called "Freeze." Art, at once, stood still and was never the same again.

A first loud salvo in a career full of symphonic hype, "Freeze" featured Hirst reprising the artist-as-impresario role made famous by such historical figures as Giorgio Vasari and Malcolm McLaren. After dispatching limos to collect Charles Saatchi and the Royal Academy's Norman Rosenthal for curated exhibitions, the artist turned to fabricating his own sugar-free pop shock—consumer objects that kept one eye peeled on art's significant liberties while maintaining predatory focus on the art market's exploding gamesmanship. Butterfly paintings, a shark in a tank, cut-up animals, steel cabinets with pills, humongous cutaway sculptures, his repetitive Twister paintings—these were all deployed like powerful tokens on a Risk board. It was around this time that Hirst announced: "I can't wait to get into a position to make really bad art and get away with it. At the moment, if I did certain things, people would look at it, consider it, and then say 'fuck off.' But after a while, you can get away with things." You certainly could, old boy, you most certainly could.

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69 comments
jagemsacviretar
jagemsacviretar

Damien Hirst & Jeff Koons do not create their own art that has sold for Billions Internationally.    The Dealers who do Not Accept "any submissions" from talented artists, & the Auction Houses, Critics & Museums that support these fraud sales, are the usual suspects. I will pitch the TV show: "AMERICAN ART STAR" until it appears on TV. It can go GLOBAL as "MEXICAN ART STAR,"       UK ART STAR etc... as the world will "demand" new "real art and artists," instead of the fraud created by dealer's greed. The show will change the art world the way American IDOL, changed the music world. Let the most talented win, so "no dealers or gallery owners" as Judges, and a Museum Exhibit and huge cash prize for the winner. The WORLD deserves Modern Art Created by the most talented Artists, "Not" Art Cartel Fraud, with the most "untalented artists in history," currently, the World's Richest, along with the People who sell IT. JACK ARMSTRONG ARTIST L.A., BAJA MX.

heenan73
heenan73

Tha faux obituary is as valid an art form as anything produced by Hirst; this one has its moments, but could have been funnier.  The comments above from "Outraged of Greenwich" (or whoever) are much funnier. It's sad that Hirst and his pals have produced so much constipation, but sadder that their supporters are so incompetent at defending them.

Syd
Syd

It is great to wake up and smell the coffee. Hirst has always been Barnum Balley's main event -- butterfly paintings and all. He isn't anymore dead now than he was when the first shark tanks appeared, it is just that maybe his critics and fans have woken up a bit. CVF being one of them.Congratulations.

Verna
Verna

roomate's step-mother brought in $15410 past month. she has been making cash on the computer and bought a $432100 home. All she did was get blessed and use the information leaked on this web site LazyCash37.com

Hadas
Hadas

Very dissapointed (that he isn't really dead)....

Laurentiu Todie
Laurentiu Todie

I like Hirst but his new (among many) inspiration seems to be Mark Twain : )

Olive
Olive

Witty piece, that although a time consuming bother, does summarize the flamboyance and undeserved fame of Hirst as undeniable copy cat and pop art wannabe, unveiled.

EKay63
EKay63

An unamusing, uninteresting, highly adolescent, shallowly smugnacious and egocentric "review". Embarrassing for the Voice and the writer. I have lost previous respect for both.

Dee Jian
Dee Jian

DAMIEN HIRST IS NOT REALLY DEAD.The writer of this article is only seeking attention and sensation.

Kent
Kent

I bow my head in respect for tastefully serving up fistfuls of smack to someone who decidedly deserves it. Kent/Stockholm

Ella
Ella

This seems to be a lot of bother, considering he's not even dead...

Peter B Lloyd
Peter B Lloyd

Did Mr Hirst sponsor this piece to boost publicity? -- to gain the fame of a dead, young artist while still alive?

guest
guest

but....where is the body?

Mat Gleason
Mat Gleason

The irony is that most of his auction sales are to himself, there aren't hundreds of collectors. Otherwise brilliant.

Lee Kay
Lee Kay

What an o-BITCH-you-are-y!!!

Vero P
Vero P

Great review, Hirst deserved it. What a fake!!!

Al
Al

This b.s. story is a clear dereliction of duty as a writer. It's not witty or charming. It's just crap sensationalism to get more reader.

gary
gary

a sigh of relief from those that thought the emperor naked

Ken Vallario
Ken Vallario

ummm...ok...should i say 'your momma' now..or what?

i think i am going to start a troll rights organization, because trolls deserve respect too.

art students deserve respect, not the disdain you so obviously have for them.

idealism of youth deserves respect too, and the romanticism that goes with it.

oh yeah, let's not forget civility...

but, i will accept your challenge...let's go toe to toe my friend...you get your best piece of artwork, and i'll get mine, we'll throw down and let the community decide...

i did not make this thing personal...my challenge to the author was about the argument he was making in the piece, and i found it confusing, as did some of the other commentators, especially given the provocative nature of the piece, it deserved some scrutiny...but you have made this personal, so i challenge you to show me your own work...people can see mine at kenvallario.com, i'm not here to spam, but you asked, so there you have it...show me your magic...

and i've had these kinds of arguments on the internet before...and from my experience the likelihood is about 90 percent that you will respond, that you won't be able to even follow your own virtual door-slamming technique...

discussion is how we rise from fools and become brothers...

James Early
James Early

Then again you clicked all the way through didn't you? Idiots.

mondello 33
mondello 33

What does this have to do with the former Liberian rebel leader and purveyor of all things creative, General Butt Naked? I find the relevence of loathing self grandizing promotional fluff attached to the authentic American prarie giberish, known to the great iconic buffallo lore to be in my opinion somewhat a slice of onion slices placed upon the meat of a expensive hamburger sold in some uppity hamburger salon on the upper west side of Downton Abbey.Examine the finite numbers of impossibilty only beknownst to the number jugglers,that being described as GOOGOOPLEX! These are my opinions and I endorse them to the fullest extent! Prid Quo Pro the Burt Reynolds archives.

Tama(mm)
Tama(mm)

-2012ってなってるけど。ダミアンハーストさんは本当には亡くなられてないようで。

Henry the Horse
Henry the Horse

Honestly, do you critics care nothing for the damage you might do to the private assets of multiple Hedge Fund Managers?

Ciara R'Ollings
Ciara R'Ollings

"I only painted the first five and I was like, 'f*** this', I hated it. As soon as I sold one, I used the money to pay people to make them. They were better at it than me. I get bored. I get very impatient." http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/...

Ciara R'Ollings
Ciara R'Ollings

Quoted in Evening Standard as saying: "I only painted the first five and I was like, 'f*** this', I hated it. As soon as I sold one, I used the money to pay people to make them. They were better at it than me. I get bored. I get very impatient." http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/...

Romanna BintAbubaker
Romanna BintAbubaker

Damien Steven Hirst, the world's richest artist at NW of $332 million died last week

Jennifer Tonks Tonge
Jennifer Tonks Tonge

I'm sorry but the fact the alleged death of the artist has NOT been in ANY news articles whatsoever, and he 'died' last thursday...AND he has a major exhibition coming up in London...suggests that he has not in fact died. The news of Damien Hirst's death would be all over the news right now, as Lucian Freud's was. Until a reliable source publishes information about Damien Hirst's death, I refuse to partake in believing this rumour.

Ken Vallario
Ken Vallario

wow, you called me a troll...and claimed i wasn't being a man...wow, the art world somehow has turned into a real macho macho environment...i made a critique of the article...this is my right...and it is something that the art world has become allergic to, because i suppose, it's bad for business...i will restate, as i've seen in at least one other comment, i liked the article, but i found the last paragraph suspect.

just because 'popular culture' deems a person a genius doesn't mean i have to comply...and i'm not the one who wrote an article about the artist's death...even though i think Hirst is a fraud, and that most of what passes for art today is fraudulent...that was not my point...my point had to do with presenting yourself as a critic of Hirst's gross materialism and apathetic misanthropy, and then creating a parachute at the end of the article...this is a valid criticism, and one that might be wrong, and i am willing to argue about that..but using the word 'troll' is equivalent to bullying in my opinion, it is a way to avoid discussion...it is in itself an aggressive act.

i don't have to be 'honest with the merits' of Damien Hirst, if i don't feel he has any...do you understand...this whole 30 year obsession with art as a reflection of the market is itself a sort of right-wing fanaticism...i am not the extremist...Hirst is the extremist, he is the perverse grandchild of Warhol, the artistic equivalent of Jersey Shore Vh1 nihilism...

people are awakening to the fact that wallstreet traders can be corrupt...government officials can be corrupt...why is it so hard for people to entertain the idea that we artists can be corrupt? are we that sacrosanct, that we are immune from honest critique of our principles? do we have no responsibilities to the public? i don't have the answers to these questions...but when an artist says openly that he wishes to produce 'bad art', i take him at his word...and i don't want to play that game, and i think the author should bow out of that game too..that is what i meant by covering his rear-end...

let's put the troll word aside, and if you wish to argue against my points, then great...let's engage in a platonic dialogue, that will bring us closer, and leave the inflammatory labels to the extremists, as you say, the tea partiers and taliban...i invite you to show me Hirst's merits and argue for them.

takashi murakami
takashi murakami

これ、風刺だと思います。「全ガゴジアンギャラリーでドットペインティング展」を開催した事があまりにも「馬鹿すぎて」、まるで「アーティストのダミアン」が死んだという意味を込めています。

L.C. von Sukmeister
L.C. von Sukmeister

hihi, hirst but also cattelan are artists who are kicking away the ladder for young artists and actually frustrate building a public infrastructure for the arts. well, no problem for nyc, since that city's art institutions are already contaminated with the dirty money. incest art world, thank you very much ;-) excuse my english, i'm not a native speaker. http://tifx.wordpress.com/cate...

L.C. von Sukmeister
L.C. von Sukmeister

hihi, hirst but also cattelan are artists who are kicking away the ladder for young artists and actually frustrate building a public infrastructure for the arts. well, no problem for nyc, since that city's art institutions are already contaminated with the dirty money. incest art world, thank you very much ;-) excuse my english, i'm not a native speaker. http://tifx.wordpress.com/cate...

mkhajdin
mkhajdin

You came to bury Hirst, not to praise him. At least until the last paragraph.

Oh well, I was enjoying it thoroughly up until then.

Sebastianerrazuriz
Sebastianerrazuriz

Beautiful text once again by the great Viveros Faune.No one likes to get butt raped, even if its by an art and merketing genius. You can only cry wolf so many times. Hirst can go die or retire now.

Kenvallario
Kenvallario

talk about covering your ass at the end...what was at first an exhilarating and refreshing critique of an artist whose misanthropy we are all happy to wake up from...at the end you play politics and turn this critique into a brown-nosing twisted accolade, claiming that the man was reading the market perfectly...and thus you both raise up the golden calves of Hirst and the market at the same time, and expose your own commitment to both...your article is a typical post-modern form of self-protection, speaking from two sides of the mouth, so that one is never backed into a corner by having a position and really having to defend it...how clever you are...come on people, take a stand!

Johnbobble
Johnbobble

si if he;s not dead FUCK you for getting my dreams come true...

Juratelv
Juratelv

It is what it is... Didn't anything derailing from the truth...

Sebastianerrazuriz
Sebastianerrazuriz

Of course you are in your right to write down your opinion Vallario, but you are too intelligent and educated to believe that Damien Hirst can be so easily dismissed as simply perverse or completely worthless.

You don't believe your own extremist words when you demand that the author should only point to Damien Hirst's faults and ignore his merits. And that's why we who read you can tell you are probably a guy who is just being extremist, exaggerating, bitching and complaining and being a bit of a "troll".

So lets just look at the facts: Any young artist who comes out of art school into today's competitive market and in just 20 years can create 332 million dollars by selling to the art world what ever he wants is with out doubt a remarkable person and could probably be qualified as a genius. Is Hirst an artistic genius? a marketing genius? a genius businessman? we have our opinions, its very all debatable, but we have to agree the guy is brilliant.

To have 332 Million dollars in your bank account naturally means your work generated a couple billion dollars in transactions and even bigger numbers in press, publications and in the general value assigned to the new found interest of the british public for contemporary art.

So without even talking about Damien Hirst's artistic work or the lack of it; We can safely say that the author Christian Viveros Faune, is completely right. Damien Hirst despite all his faults generated an unprecedented amount of value which translated into his personal wealth but also into the international awareness of british contemporary art and the general growth of galleries, museums, institutions, art schools, publications, and media. This growth of the arts naturally also benefitted generations of the people who worked in these areas.

So regardless of how good or bad Damien Hirst is or how good or bad we consider his work to be, we finally also have to admit that this little discussion here and the text by Viveros Faune are at the end of the day also born from the product of Damien Hirst's work...

...so Yes, lets celebrate and make fun of Damien Hirst's faults, lets criticize him out loud, call him names, but lets not question the character of the critic who simply points out to both the bad and the good he represents.

Marioalberico
Marioalberico

Can we play Twister with the plastic game sheet on the wall? Good? Bad? Lukewarm? Art? After many years I've not decided, however confronting the entire art world and challenging us to stand on gallery walls around the world to play his game is a fascinating "throw done" use of a global art exhibition and trumps his master Andy Warhol Whor-al. Remember Fred Astaire's famous dance on the four walls (in a movie who's name I forget)? We are all just doing the same with our eyeballs and our brains in Damien's Twister wallpaper. He's done it again - successfully tangling up Danto's and Dickie's Artworld. Like it or not, he's damn good. At what I'm not quite sure, yet. 

Sebastianerrazuriz
Sebastianerrazuriz

Hey Kenvalliario please don't troll on one of the few good critics out there today.Lets leave extremist black or white stands to the retards, the fanatics and the Tea Party.

Whether we like it or not, Damien Hirst is pretty much what popular culture would qualify as a genius. We can argue if Damien Hirst's field of brilliance is really art, business or branding. We can critique his ethics, his legacy or the true value of his work. We can even make fun of him, mock his work and celebrate his fall.

But in the same way we point out the faults, we also have to be honest with the merits. Otherwise we risk tainting all of our thoughts under a blanket of extremism and foolishness.

Dont be a troll Kenvallario be a man instead.

Ken Vallario
Ken Vallario

i'm not sure i'm following your argument...is your argument that I am a troll, which you have called me again, or that Damien Hirst is admirable.

To the first count...a consequence of the absurd commitment to that kind of relativism that has allowed the curatorial class to utilize the likes of Hirst and others like him to extract wealth from wallstreet execs who like to consider themselves cultured...a consequence of this, is that anybody who expresses a view that has just the slightest bit of 'moral' or even 'romantic' sentiment, given that art served a variety functions in its very long history...such people are labeled as extremists or trolls..instead of focusing on the nature of that 'value' you keep talking about...

you cannot both have a discussion about VALUES and not have a discussion about VALUES...

you are saying, that because i want to talk about the Value of Damien Hirst, that I am an extremist...that because i want the author to make a clear statement, to take a stand on Value, instead of playing it safe, that I am an extremist...

and yet, you are making a very clear statement of values yourself, one that i am asking you to defend..without, i might add, insulting you personally...

the inflation of markets, it seems to me, is never something to be valued...the creation of markets that cannot be sustained into the future, for the sake of immediate gratification is a dangerous and ultimately immoral aspect of the contemporary world that needs to be addressed, not with extremism, but with a prudent respect for universal human values...

like it or not, the creation of 'bad art', although it might serve in the short run to create a false wealth for a small number of people, ultimately leads to a public that does not trust the institution of art, tied as it has become to a set of nihilistic marketeers who have lost their sense of responsibility to society. the argument you have made to defend Hirst, that he has done a lot of good by generating Money, could be made to defend the wallstreet execs that used poor people's money to buy the art...

all that money is losing its value everyday because of the very practices we are talking about...money is, itself, a symbol of value...so, when wallstreet execs or a-hole artists attempt to purposely subvert its purpose, they are committing fraud, and by defrauding the values of our system of exchange, whether that exchange is monetary or intellectual, they are actually destroying culture and the civilizing forces that allow us to live a bit above our ape nature...so, yes, i am very comfortable saying that Damien Hirst is a bad artist...that his art has no redeeming values, and that the nightmare of this curatorial scam is about to be over...

it might seem i am averse to money...that i am some anarchist idealist...but i suggest the opposite is true...that by advocating for sincerity in the arts, for curatorial restraint and for an expectation of social responsibility, that I am advocating for a more sustainable and transcendent artistic experience that is ultimately more profitable and more inspiring...the alienation of the artists from one another has the affect of dis-empowering the most talented and visionary members of our social structure, and this alienation occurs when sincerity and a respect for the audience is degraded by a system of obedience and hierarchy that is unnatural to the creative type, leading to a need for 'bad art'...which is produced by those most comfortable with daddy figures...

i could go on, but suffice it to say, that i would like you to argue about why the work is valuable besides its monetary value, since that money is probably going to deflate very soon..what will be left my dear sir?

Ken Vallario
Ken Vallario

ummm...ok...should i say 'your momma' now..or what?

i think i am going to start a troll rights organization, because trolls deserve respect too.

art students deserve respect, not the disdain you so obviously have for them.

idealism of youth deserves respect too, and the romanticism that goes with it.

oh yeah, let's not forget civility...

but, i will accept your challenge...let's go toe to toe my friend...you get your best piece of artwork, and i'll get mine, we'll throw down and let the community decide...

i did not make this thing personal...my challenge to the author was about the argument he was making in the piece, and i found it confusing, as did some of the other commentators, especially given the provocative nature of the piece, it deserved some scrutiny...but you have made this personal, so i challenge you to show me your own work...people can see mine at kenvallario.com, i'm not here to spam, but you asked, so there you have it...show me your magic...

and i've had these kinds of arguments on the internet before...and from my experience the likelihood is about 90 percent that you will respond, that you won't be able to even follow your own virtual door-slamming technique...

discussion is how we rise from fools and become brothers...

Sebastianerrazuriz
Sebastianerrazuriz

You say you are not sure you are following my argument and you are right, you are not.

I made my arguments perfectly clear, if you couldn't follow them its because you didn't want to follow them, you preferred to find refuge in a cliched rehearsed bravado of a student monologue. I didn't even need to respond; you had already rendered that long boring and nonsensical answer of yours worthless as any kind of follow up to the discussion we had started.

You don't fool us, you are not a purist or an idealist, you are probably just another bitter and mediocre art student that's angry with the world because he is finally coming to terms with the reality that he can only play out his fantasy of being a real life artist or writer by trolling on other people's work.

And don't act so surprised by being called out as a "Troll" you should have expected that coming a long time before. After you initially publicly insulted the author of the text by calling him a "Monkey" you should at least expect a couple of people to jump in his defense and question your own intellectual range.

-Now that was the one question you actually did answer well. But Im sorry to say there's no points for you there either.

"Never discuss with fools or you will risk being confused with one". Im sorry I overestimated you, I was confused for a second. But I now know better and I am not wasting my time coming back here again... wouldn't want to risk being confused.

Goodbye little troll.

 
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