Though perhaps in a somewhat all-too-contextualized and taciturn manner, I suppose I, too, voiced an opinion or two about artist, or ‘artist,’ Damien Hirst when I referred to his formaldehyde-suspended works as “douche-bathery.” I suppose, also, that I could, perhaps even should, qualify that statement, yet related claims that emerged a few days ago might have already done that for me—in a somewhat different context, using somewhat different grounds, and for an at least somewhat different audience.
As reported over the weekend in the New York Times, art critic Julian Spalding at once lashes out against claims of Hirst’s alleged ‘brilliance’ or ‘genius’ and admonishes the wealthy buyers of the artist’s works. What’s more, Spalding devoted a whole book to it, Con Art—Why you ought to sell your Damien Hirsts while you can.
Advising collectors to flip with the quickness their over-hyped, overpriced purchases, Spalding’s message is as much about the objects’ inherent worth as it is about their gravely lacking artistic force. Or rather, he calls Hirst’s works “seriously worthless” with “no artistic content,” and thus believes that serious galleries should reconsider their assumptions that the works are anything like the opposite thereof. Furthermore, “His work isn’t worth a cent, not because it isn’t great art, good art or even bad art, but because it isn’t art at all,” says Spalding.
And all this while Hirst’s works are filling up a major retrospective exhibition at London’s Tate Modern.
And so, this has caused quite a row. So many vitriolic waves in vitrines of liquid.
Yet will the shark’s fins be budged in the least?
Perhaps not, if fans’ counter-arguments that Hirst’s works effectively question “the main dilemmas of human existence” such as “birth, illness, death and religion” hold out.
How philosophical! How grand! How novel! Only a truly inspired artist with fathomless integrity could dare to pose such inquiries!
And art has never done that before. Has it?
I reckon that book features some laughably formidable numbers.
Or maybe I’m just an April Fool.
You can follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter, if it floats your creature, @postuccio