Hirst’s new Mega-Show: Vacuous Baubles of, by, and for, the Morbidly Wealthy

If you prefer, you can watch the video version.

Hirst’s Sphinx is one of 189 sculptures commissioned created by the oligarch artist.

Before we get started, I want you to look at just one of the 189 sculptures by Damien Hirst in his “Treasures From The Wreck of the Unbelievable”.

This is a detail of just one of his Hydra and Kali sculptures.

Looking at this image, what level of sculptural skill was needed to make it? It’s extraordinarily skilled and polished, isn’t it? In fact no credit is given to the hands that sculpted the work, and all is given to the man who paid for it. And my question for you is, and you have to answer honestly, which was harder to do a) think up that someone should make this sort of sculpture, or b) make it? If you chose “a” than you are either thinking way to hard, and doing rhetorical back flips through flaming hoops, or you are not thinking at all. As an artist, if the art world will accept me as one at all (you can look around and decide for yourself), I could not take credit for a sculpture like this, unless I made it myself. It’s just too much skill to say that the final creation belongs entirely to the person who directed it, and not at all to the person who make it.  It’s like Don King taking credit for Muhammad Ali’s boxing in the ring. On top of that, it is ONLY the execution of this piece that interests me, and the idea, if there is one, not at all. And that goes for all the pieces I’ve seen in the show. The idea is threadbare, and the execution is consummate. The result is an inflated, elaborated, gilded vacuity.

The show is an empty advertisement showcasing the products and services rendered by the companies and individuals Hirst hired to produce the work.


Today is a bit of a double whammy for my beleaguered mind. Trump just shot dozens of missiles into Syria, and Damien Hirst’s new spectacle extraordinaire opened its gaping maw, filled with jewel-encrusted teeth. Of course these two things are not equal, even if they both share a triumph of money and power over people and art. It’s one thing to lord opulence over the masses, as has Hirst done, and it’s another to annihilate us. The missiles fired off by Trump may not themselves have taken lives (haven’t heard a claim on that yet), but the act potentially can effect millions for starters. I’ll  get to Hirst in a moment.

I tweeted that if Trump wants war with Assad, they can meet in the octagon and fight to the death. War is quite possibly the greatest human stupidity and vulgarity. That those responsible are not utterly horrified by the prospect of unimaginable suffering signals that they are not entirely cognizant of what it means to be alive and human. Nobody who was would wish on another, and particularly an innocent, atrocity that one could never fathom enduring oneself. The old familiar rhetoric is crammed down our throats again: in order to protect the innocent from the vile crimes of the heinous dictator, and his use of chemical weapons, we will pound their country back into the stone age. And this is why we need to defund art, and shift those monies into the military. I realize the situation is much more complex than I’ve outlined, and readily admit my lack of any definite knowledge or understanding of the conflict in the region. I’m much more certain that I am not supposed to know the truth, and there are formidable hurdles blocking ones ability to access the truth.

Back to Hirst. If you aren’t an artist yourself, struggling to be more than an unseen needle in a mountain of hay, and making art at your own financial detriment, you may not realize how devastating to artists in general are multi-million dollar spectacles constructed by teams of artisans and specialists. It is a bit like confronting Goliath with a slingshot, but this time Goliath is wearing a suit of armor, and is armed to the teeth (but no chemical or biological weapons). Artists of average means, irrespective of ability, vision, or potential, can not possibly afford to compete with Damien Hirst at his game.

The Calendar Stone by Damien Hirst.

Alas, I am already bored by his exhibit, not that I can afford to go see it. It is for the ultra-wealthy connoisseurs. Having accessed most my art through reproductions throughout my life, I’m quite good at getting the art without seeing it in person (though I certainly benefit when I do get the opportunity to see works in person). Seeing the collection of Van Gogh paintings in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was a treat, but did not improve my understanding or appreciation of the painter. What I’m getting at is that I don’t really need to go to the show in person to get a grasp of it and get bored.

Hydra and Kali sculptures by Hirst. wonder how long before he’s accused of cultural appropriation.

Hirst has outdone himself in terms of grandiosity, bombast, and undoubtedly expense, and yet, despite the countless hours, nearly infinite budget, and monumental artifacts, the show is virtually substanceless. It says, “Look what I can do!” It’s a rich kid rolling up to a go-cart competition in a custom automobile commissioned by the designers at Lamborghini. The race is cancelled and everyone looks on, slack-jawed, as the richest kid in the neighborhood by a magnitude of hundreds roles in on a level of opulence formerly reserved for Kings. It is not the best car present. A few of the go-carts show more imagination, and offer a more exciting, albeit bumpy ride.

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is a themed exhibit, based on a fantastical story that the artifacts presented were discovered in a shipwreck. He even bothered to hire people to create videos of these works (or facsimiles thereof) being discovered and retrieved from the depths of the ocean.

The story does absolutely nothing for me, as it’s obviously fake (which we are obviously supposed to know), and is just a pretext to make a WHOA moment in an evening’s pondering over watching The Pirates of the Caribbean and thumbing through National Geographic into justification for making sea treasures into grandiose art spectacles.

You know what this show reminds me of? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t remind me of, first. It doesn’t remind me of the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Those towers were created by one dude, Simon Rodia, over 33 years, by himself. He was an Italian immigrant, construction worker, and tile mason. They share with Hirst’s show monumentality (the largest tower is 99 feet high), and the act of encrusting objects, though in Rodia’s case it was often bottles and tiles brought to him by local children.

View of a few of the 17 towers making up the Watts Towers, by Italian Immigrant, Simon Rodia.

There the comparison ends. Rodia’s work represents his unique vision, and is a consequence of his own labor and know-how. Trump’s Hirst’s vision is not so apparent in the art, as crafted by hired artisans, but rather in the strategy and other non-visual impetus behind the work. Get this brilliant idea: make the most valuable contemporary art by making fake versions of what would be the most valuable artifacts (if they were real). Get it? Fook yeah! Making money is the highest form of making art, so said Warhol, so regurgitated Trump, so believes Hirst. There may be some truth in there somewhere, I don’t know where, but it would be more accurate to say that making money is the highest form of avarice. We’re talking about making huge amounts of money, here, folks, not just enough for you and your family to live very comfortably on. F’ing Martin Shkreli called using a “your money or your life” ultimatum to exact exceedingly high prices for life-saving drugs “art”. Yes he did. And he got that idea from the very ilk the loins of which Hirst sprang from.

Ah, fuck, Hirst’s show really is much more like Trump Tower than the Watts Towers. Trump didn’t design the towers, and they are a monument to the ostentatious.

Simon Rodia.

And that is one of Hirst and his believer’s arguments, that he is like an architect, and architects don’t physical build their own buildings. I find it embarrassing that artists and critics who not only pride themselves of their philosophical acumen and expertise on all things artistic can’t tell the difference between an architect and a real estate developer. Hirst is not like Frank Lloyd Wright. An architect designs the building, and it is built according to his (or her, or xe, or ze, or zie) specifications. Hirst doesn’t design the sculptures or know how to do it. He’s the Trump. He orders his creations and supervises when necessary.

There is also the fallacy that the old masters used assistants to aid them, and thus what Hirst or Koons does is nothing new. Yes it is. The assistants of the old masters weren’t doing anything the artists couldn’t do themselves, or didn’t know how to do. Rubens didn’t call someone in to paint the horses for him. The assistants ground pigments and would work on some paintings, priming  the canvases, or blocking in backgrounds. Pieces which were worked on by assistant were valued less.

I was going to say that Hirst’s new show reminds me of those little museums of 3D paintings and sculptures, perfect for selfies, that have cropped up across SE Asia (and probably elsewhere, but, I live in SE Asia, so those are the ones I know about). I wasn’t even thinking about Trump Tower. It’s just a coincidence that both Trump and Hirst ejaculated their heroic loads on mere mortals at the same time. At least I think it is. Perhaps they are both symptomatic of an incredibly imbalanced world where the undeserving mega-rich lord over everyone else. Anyway, the reason Hirst’s show reminds me of those optical illusion museums is that it’s just spectacle.  You “wow”, take a selfie, and move on. Nothing lingers.

It also reminds me of the latest incarnation of Star Trek, which, completely unlike the original series, bombarded the viewer with explosions, sound effects, and would never let the eye rest for more than 3 seconds (I started counting after I caught on to this). In an attempt to overwhelm the senses, the senses were deadened. In the same way a fan of the original Star Trek might be insulted, so might art fans be insulted by Hirst’s new, glittering, monstrosity. Damien Hollywood.

Granted, the people who created the works for Hirst did a stellar job of it. They made him look like a consummate craftsman, and on a scale none can contend with. And yet, at the same time, the very show is a repudiation of craft and skill. The theme is a half-baked loaf of raisin bread, mere fodder for an uninspired Hollywood blockbuster. What succeeds and wows us is merely the craft itself. Same goes for Jeff Koons. It’s the detail, high-polish, and technique required to make such large objects that ultimately is what effects us, albeit superficially, on the level of immediate impression. And yet,  that workmanship is considered completely irrelevant to the super-genius idea behind making the call to commission the work. Dare I say the idea is shit?

You people who believe in this Trumped up $hit, fund me and I’ll do something better. Not really. I’m not interested. I prefer to make my own art. Anyway, you know what would have been more cool, if you are just going to throw tens of millions at a themed art spectacle? A show themed on vintage UFO footage and lore. Why not build several of those UFOs that were alleged to be housed in Hangar 51. Make ’em big. Make ’em hum. Lights. None of this lame-ass brickwork background that surrounds all of Hirt’s sculptures. The backdrop is metal, or night sky. Make it eerie, retro yet using today’s technology (as Hirst did) to produce effects we can’t even figure out how the hell they were done.

So, last night when the missiles were launched I was finishing up a piece and listening to Voivod (a band a fellow blogger has successfully tried to get me into). Relax. This isn’t self promo. Nobody is going to pay attention to any of my art until someone with authority and a big audience promotes it. But, being me, and being an artist, I can’t help but think about the different processes and orientations of different artists.

The piece in question is a B&W digital drawing done from my imagination. Probably took several hours and is part of a series of “speed” paintings I’m doing. It has a sort of a missile or bomb shape in it, and completely unaware of what was going on in international air space, I named it, ironically, “Missiles of Mercy”. The un-ironic, un-poetic title would be “Missiles of Murder”.

#24: Missiles of Mercy.

One of the things that appeals to me about working in this style (which is one of a few styles I’ve recently developed) is the simplicity of the technique, which therefore showcases the innovation or imagination. There’s no hiding behind millions of dollars and the world’s best artisans and technicians. There’s just what I can do all by myself, for free, drawing in black and white. And one of my goals is to see the unseen. As far as that goal is concerned, this simply made drawing succeeds where Hirst’s whole show fails. I haven’t quite seen this kind of image before, but Hirst’s epic 189 sculptures look so much like Hollywood props that they are all too familiar from the get go. They are essentially appropriations. There’s no contending with abstraction or artistic interpretation via medium. They are high-end, ultra-polished, naturalistic versions of extant imagery, with a twist of lime, like giving one sculpture the head of Yolandi Visser of Die Antwoord. Even that is accomplished via the unquestioned naturalism of 19th century realism.

As with Koons’ similar works, there is no relation between the artists themselves and the medium. That relation is between the hired artisan and the materials, and relies entirely on largely commercial techniques which exist completely independent of the artist. You can say, “it’s a new idea”, as is so often said, but that’s not what anyone is getting out of it. They are in awe of the sheer craft of it, and unless Hirst has changed, those responsible for the craft involved are unmentioned and unmentionable.  It would, indeed, make more sense if the artist who banks on skill being irrelevant presented work which was above and beyond all not a spectacle of technical, and perfect, virtuosity (Guston’s late work comes to mind). If Hirt’s ideas are so profound, why do they need to be encased in exquisitely crafted, perfected objects? I think any artist can tell you that the difficult part is the execution, and not the idea. Here’s another question for you. Do you think it was harder for Michelangelo to think of making the sculpture of David, or to chisel it out of marble over a three year period? Right, it was the idea. Who would have thought of David, or Hydra and Kali. Anyone can sculpt it, once you have the idea. X

I can sum up the show in two words: WOW! ZZZZzzzzz.


Codicil:

Was that too harsh and hyperbolic? Yeah, probably. I’m not covering the other side and am giving just one side of the argument, here. Sorry about that. I got spun up in my own narrative and missed the big picture.

I see the other side. An artist has the opportunity to do absolutely whatever he wants, with as much money as he wants, and as many and as great of “assistants” as he needs. He comes up with this blockbuster of a show, and if you didn’t know better, and had amnesia, and just stumbled into the exhibit, you’d probably like it. What the F is wrong with submerged figures with coral growing over them? It’s all pretty cool.

I suppose I am just overreacting out of disappointment. I wouldn’t have wanted Damien Hirst to go with fantasy and buried treasure. I’m not a fan of his, but he could have surprised me. Had he done the UFO theme, I would probably have been won over.

The other thing that disappoints me is that the sculptures are all accomplished, but, yeah, they don’t have the extra flair that sculptures made directly by an artist have. Compare one of them to say, a sculpture by H.R. Giger. Obviously Giger has his own style, created his own universe, and Hirst’s sculptures have no real style. There’s nothing special about them.

That’s the thing with commissioning people to make bitchin’ sculptures, Dudester. An artist working directly in the medium can make a better sculpture. Thus, we have a museum filled with 2nd rate sculptures in place of what should be 1st rate artifacts: ones which naturally might have become the most valuable in an ancient given society. Hirst mistakenly makes it a given that his assembled works are the best civilization had/has to offer, when they are not. It’s impossible to commission people to make a work for you, and it be better than an artist making his or her own work. Hirst’s pieces are the equivalent of songs performed by studio musicians, under the direction of a someone else, as compared to songs musicians write and perform for themselves.

You have to ask yourself why he doesn’t do more paintings. I know he tried his hand at fake Bacons, but got panned for it. I respect him for trying. He failed. Anyway, he has those paintings he pays people to paint for him. It’s the same problem with Koons, it’s just obviously a crappy painting when you pay someone to do it, as compared to an artist who makes his or her own painting. It’s the same thing with sculpture, but it’s harder to tell the result is second rate.

I think I’m getting negative again. Let me end on a positive note. I think I’d much rather spend an afternoon in Hirst’s new exhibit than in a Koons show of the same magnitude, as I definitely prefer cool to ironic (or even worse, unironic) kitsch.

I leave you with Voivod’s Kluskap O’ Kom (check out the pounding rhythms and crunchy, galloping guitars). I’d rather listen to them then look at Hirst’s commisioned, ornate crap:

~ Eric

If you are interested in my art or criticism, poke around this site. It’s very easy to navigate and loaded chock full of art and criticism.

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17 thoughts on “Hirst’s new Mega-Show: Vacuous Baubles of, by, and for, the Morbidly Wealthy

  1. I can seriously pass on Hirst, he is like 100 levels less interesting than Meese. He is all about shock value. Will he ever make art? Well, wish him well:) Its never too late.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric, I understand your point of view about not only this work but the whole “art world” in general. Its all about money, all about branding, all about creating a presence in the market. Ray Harryhausen would be proud of them. They look like props for the next several reboots or next generation Indian Jones movies. One can look at all this as a highlighted example of the nature of the world we live in and in particular the “West” (Europe and the United States). The West is empty of ideas, unorthodox thinking, optimism and profound dreams of something different or grander. To be blunt, its intellectually and spiritually empty art for a society that is intellectually and spiritually empty. It fills space but not the heart, it is made beautifully but does not highlight the beauty of ourselves. It is finely crafted by skilled hands but does not have ideals for us to craft our lives for. Turn it around, most people, in the West, will look at the great sculptures, paintings, architecture, literature of the past as meaningless or just alien. Hurst, Koons, et all are the paragons of this global capitalist world. All that matters is making money, and all that really concerns the mind is that which will confirm the goals of making money, or conversely to entertain between moments of making money. They are magnificent as idols to this.

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    1. Yeah. I think that’s mostly true. I like to give them a little credit, so I don’t come off as an angry Stuckist painter or something. But, just an hour or so ago I had an obvious realization that I can’t believe I haven’t really had before, especially since I’ve been blogging about art for over 3 years.

      I was watching a Koons & Hirst video (Hirst put on a Koons show and owns some of his works), and I realized the painfully obvious thing that their work is completely impersonal. It is icy cold, with no sign of life in it at all. Same goes for Duchamp. When you get a urinal, whatever mental challenges it may pose to peoples beliefs, there is nothing at all personal in it. I don’t mean like, say, Frida Kahlo is personal, which is obvious, but even how Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko put themselves into their work (via the record of their actions, or emotion). There’s NO emotion in Koons’ or Hirst’s work. It’s absolutely devoid. Certainly any claim of anything spiritual is ludicrous. On top of that there’s no record of using the imagination. It doesn’t stop there. There’s no engaging with the process. Let me get this straight.

      There is
      1) Nothing personal/ no presence of person.
      2) No emotion.
      3) No imagination.
      4) Nothing spiritual or transcendent.
      5) No direct engaging with the process or medium involved in making the pieces.

      In my book, that’s strike 5. You’re OUT! You were OUT two strikes ago!. We can add more strikes for pandering to the ultra-wealthy clientele. And my art is the exact opposite.

      But the main thing that was really obvious was that there was nothing personal in it, and then when I panned back to think about the art I like most, it’s the art that is personal. The kind where if an alien life form found it, they would know that we are an intelligent and imaginative species with a rich inner life.

      Why have we given all that up for absolutely sterile, clinical works? And yet people are really convinced. In the comments under my YouTube video I’m mostly being attacked.

      Thanks for writing. I think art is for artists, too. Not just for rich art directors and affluent connoisseurs with bad taste.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not sure if my reply went through so I send a second one:))

        I wanted to say that I googled and discovered an art critic (more than one actually) who doesn’t dig con art (conceptual art). He is Julian Spalding of Inverness/Scotland. I also bought his 2 dollar ebook from amazon.

        Now what you say about lack of the personhood in con art, con art says art should be mental and not personal, art should be philosophical and not personal. Con artists are society commentators, but in a sinister way always, if they do make a comment, its always nihilist, hopeless, sinister, or resembles more to fashion week than fine art. Especially judging by who is visiting when the cameras are out, these exchibitions by con artists…

        In fairness, conceptual art is a creative process, and result, but the attack conceptual artists have done to ”traditional” artists or ‘stuckists” is making one suspect that conceptual art and conceptual artists suffer from a certain level of psychological complex. Because conceptualists have openly attacked and downgraded painters, sculptors and so on… for decades.

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        1. Yes. That’s right. Consider this. We would never say that conceptual art and music are the same thing. But we say that conceptual art and visual art are the same thing, and they are not. Conceptual art tries to position itself as visual art, and take over visual art, while shitting on visual artists. Conceptual art belongs it its own separate category. Conceptual art insists that we judge visual art by the standards of conceptual art. Therefore when we look at a painting, the only important thing is the idea. But we wouldn’t say this about music. The idea is only the most important thing in some limited forms of conceptual art.

          In visual art the feelings might be more important. You might not be able to ascertain a clear idea you can put in words. Most conceptual art is absolutely devoid of feeling, but most music has some feeling to it.

          The big problem with this Hirst show (and recent work by Koons) is that they are trying to be not only the lords of conceptual art, but they want to take over visual art by hiring people to make traditional art objects for them. People will say, “anyone can sculpt, but few could come up with the idea”. If that is the case, why doesn’t Hirst just make even one of his own sculptures? He’s got all the time and money in the world. In reality, visual art is like music, and it does require some facility with the medium. If you can’t play an instrument or sing, or else compose music in some other way that works, you aren’t a musician. And if you can’t draw or paint, etc. you aren’t a visual artist.

          There’s nothing wrong with being a conceptual artist. I’m a big fan of Chris Burden and Roxy Paine. But those artists don’t try to also be visual artists by hiring people to make their visual art for them. They make very interesting and elaborate conceptual art pieces.

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  3. Eric, good points as always. Three years ago I got my MFA in painting and drawing and the lovely student loans too. During that time the manner in which art was to be discussed, dealt with, etc., etc., was often how ideas fit into art and social practice. Meaning how is it confirming an identity, empowering a community, challenging gender ideas, or the usual stuff of capitalism bad, white patriarchy bad, feminism good, racism bad, multiculturalism good, corporations (from the military industrial complex to fashion/advertising bad). You know, the usual topics. Often the notion of the philosophical seemed rather dry, devoid of any real commitment other than how it looked on a grant proposal, how a con project would look on a CV. I will be honest the MFA senior shows, excluding most of the painting grads, were the usual sort of thing you would see at any grad program and museum show. An intermedia majors work about “Fashion/Advertising/Celebrity” (always about what is wrong about it), a photography majors work about “Suburbian Sprawl” (Always about what was wrong about it). I am getting off point here, this is about Damien Hurst! The notion of this work being important, conceptual art, may have a real value. But in the end to whom? To whom is this important? To whom does this have value? A gentleman by the name of Alain De Button has an interesting point about Universities and Art Museums. He gives a scenario; “Imagine a person coming to the doors of a university or museum, knocking of the doors and asking for help. ‘Help me, I need guidance. I need to understand how am I going to live my life and how I am going to face my death!'” Button says that the person would have the doors shut on him/her or the police would be contacted. Or another way of putting it, in 1941 when the German army invaded the Soviet Union. Russian soldiers were sent to Tolstoy’s house at Yasnaya Polyana and carefully removed and packed all that was contained in the house. The contents were shipped east far away with the idea that it would be returned when the German army was pushed back. Or in 1940 when the German army marched into Paris, Hitler, Goering, and others drooled over the prospect of being able to take what ever treasures from the Louvre found that it had been emptied completely. Everything had been hidden though out the country. What I am getting at is, if one says conceptual art is philosophical, is it really worth ones time? If philosophy is a way of thinking and doing, is Hurst and Koons or any of these cenceptual artist dealing with living and acting in the world? Are these ideas are these worth saving in a time like war? If not then why cherish them? Conceptual art is like the philosophical schools of the Roman Empire from the 2nd century to it’s collapse in the 4th century. Only those from well connected families and wealth could be apart of the discussion and the discussion often did not have a clue as to what was going on in or around the empire. Their ignorance of the population, the brutal Roman government that supported them, set them up for the rise of Christianity that turned on those institutions and destroyed them. Much like what I saw in grad school and working behind the scenes in various installations at Museums where I live now, its fine gestures and eloquent words, but lets be honest its for the comfortable elites and their sycophants. Who can afford to buy a plane ticket to fly to Venice, pay to stay in Venice to look at the finely crafted and expensive toys and contemplate reading the well tuned philosophical chant of Hurst or anyone else? You have to have employment that gives you the time and money to do that. i live in Phoenix at the moment, the Venice Biannale is more than just thousands of miles from me, its basically another planet that I cannot afford to go to nor would my artwork be welcomed there. And that is what gets me, is that those who are in control call the tune and have the authority to say to you Eric or me that what we do is either irrelevant, can be ignored or ridiculed. A visiting artist, a’ name artist’ in the NY art world, was invited to the grad school I went to at the time I was attending. I invited this person to look at my work knowing that it would not be a positive one. The person basically said my work was nothing and I would be nothing like Henry Darger. The art word people are people I have grown to see less as interesting and original than full of s*#t most of the time. Those in the Curatorial positions, Museum directorships, Academic theoretical chairs, and the rest are sad in that they are not allowed to think for themselves, to take any real risks, have to tow the party line. My apologies for writing too much.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Dean. No worries about writing a lot. I actually really appreciate it. It was a bit therapeutic because I’m taking so much flack on my video version of this article on YouTube that I removed the jerky comments calling me an idiot, a fag, a fool, and the like. It’s a bit odd that people are so quick to side with the richest artist in the world, and take a big shit on me, and my art.

      I hear ya’. I went to grad school about 20 years ago (I’m 51), and I went to a particularly radical, political program in which I was the only straight white male. It was the worst 2 years of my life. As an undergrad I got a $10,000 fellowship in my senior year which was awarded to just one student. But graduate school destroyed me. The only thing I was allowed to do was deconstruct my white male privilege. It completely derailed me, and probably did some psychological damage. After graduating I worked temp jobs. And those shitty jobs were heavenly compared to grad school. I always did some art after that, just enough to not “dry up”, but it’s only in the last 5 years that I’ve started really investing in making art again.

      As for philosophy, I like philosophy. And, no, these artists and their art offer nothing in terms of practical or theoretical philosophy that I’m aware of. What do the spot paintings of Hirst teach us about the human condition? And listening to Hirst, Koons, Warhol, or one of my former teachers, Paul McCarthy, is painful and a bit embarrassing. Koons sounds like the Forest Gump of the artworld, Hirst always comes off as pugnacious, and McCarthy, well, I can do an excellent impression that my girlfriend can’t stand. Do you know his sculpture, “Captain Ballsack”?! Have a gander at this proud philosophical giant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyoArCL7byE

      I don’t wanna’ just dump on these guys, as annoying as I find them. I realized a while ago that it’s not their work that bothers me (most art is a kind of giving), but the underlying rhetoric that presumes that conceptual art replaces visual art and makes it redundant. Conceptual art has as little to do with painting as it does with music. I’ve written about this extensively in another post you could take a look at if interested: https://artofericwayne.com/2016/05/02/why-people-hate-contemporaryconceptual-art/

      A lot of visual artists found that post very helpful.

      There’s so much bullshit, and the rhetoric is so thick, that as I said in my last comment to you, only yesterday did I realize the painfully obvious thing that the work of Hirst and Koons was absolutely impersonal, devoid of human presence, and then I noticed that all my favorite art was the opposite. Why would we devalue art that was personal, addressed the human condition, used the imagination, transcended the purely quotidian, and was personally executed with beauty? Why is that a no-non and anathema in the art world?

      I find it particularly odd that these artists don’t use their imaginations, at least not any more than any marketing director does. I don’t like to use the word “soul” except as a metaphor. And here is the perfect time. Notice that art with “soul” is bad, and completely soulless art is marvelous. There’s something terribly wrong with that. It’s like we are trying to exterminate the inner psyche.

      Thanks again for commenting. Feel free to write a full on dissertation if the mood every strikes you.

      Was just looking at some of your paintings. It’s obviously really good. Are there psychedelics involved? The Dharma Bears may be my fav, just going by small jpegs I can see online.

      Cheers.

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  4. Hi Wayne,
    What a wonderful discussion of all the different angles on this gargantuan extravaganza.
    I confess that I’m morbidly fascinated and a little jealous of the power to produce such a vision. I once had a studio assistant for a week and can only dream of being so productive, influential or rewarded.

    All Art like theater requires suspension of disbelief. The question is whether the premise is worth running with and whether the work is seamless. I can’t judge the later because the physicality and the scale are so pertinent. However with the former, the back story seems fun like a carnival, a circus, or a spectacle designed to amaze. For myself I tend toward something more referential, intimate, and showing the hand, like you listed under strikes.

    In 2012 I saw the Hirst retrospective at the Tate. (See City paintings in categories on my site.) On first viewing it was amazing and overwhelming. However on a second visit I was nauseated by the formaldehyde fumes and the obsession with death and morbidity. But I cut him a break in that it is all part of the conversation about life and its infinite value. And what I do admire in Hirst is his dedication to Art and other artists and crafts people. His money is better spent on Art than bombs.

    Keep up the good work,

    Peter

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Peter. All those things sound true to me. I wasn’t bothered by the shark tank. The bisected sheep did nothing for me. His production is interesting, but the problems arise with his sources (stealing), attitude toward the people who do the skilled work (they don’t get mention as if that component were irrelevant), and so on. I think you know his rap sheet.

      The reason these bother me includes that they are fine art sculptures. There’s a difference between hauling a toilet in an exhibit, making a copy of a balloon dog, and making a traditional piece of fine art and saying it succeeds as THAT.

      It’s the same problem I have with Koon’s gazing ball sculptures and paintings. He even says that he improved upon a selection of the greatest paintings by adding a blue gazing ball on them. The stupidity is astounding.

      Koons has compared himself to Michelangelo as a sculptor. This should be obviously ridiculous to people, and it is just a more glaring version of the problem of this show.

      Conceptual artists are re-branding themselves as the best visual artists ever, and people are taking that bait.

      Sometimes something gets so excessive that it’s too excessive.

      Hirst , in this show, is making an argument that money can buy you status as the greatest visual artist, and you don’t even had to touch your work.

      If that is true. That is pathetic.

      Oh well. Less competition at making real art.

      Like

        1. Mr. Gagosian sells the work of Damien Hirst for millions. Anyway, any artist can be lazy or hard-working. The medium has nothing to do with it. His comment is like saying, “guitarists can be lazy whereas keyboardists work hard”. You link doesn’t work. I’d like to see the video.

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      1. Grr links!< Just search for 'Larry Gagosia and Jeff Koons' in youtube to find the Abu Dhabi conference then go to 43 minutes in the discussion when a lady makes a question to Koons about his involvement in the creation of his artworks of steel. Larry Gagosia backs up Koon's answer by saying that a painter could be working just 2-3 times per year and still have a career while Koons in specific is working daily.

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        1. Well, Koons team of assistants are working their asses off daily. Koons might lord over them, if one calls that work. It’s not artwork. It’s more like art director work. I’m working on a new post/video about this stuff.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Eric, I am writing a great deal. I am currently unemployed after a spate of gig jobs so I have time to kill. Funny that you mentioned Freda Kahlo in an earlier response. I was helping with the install at the Heard Museum here in Phoenix of a show of Kahlo and Rivera that will open this month. My reaction to the work is m’eh, not really excited about it. I understand that here in Phoenix its a very conservative and provincial city and Kahlo is some of the most “radical” images you can show here. It would be great if they showed some of the surrealists like Ernst, Toyan, Masson, Belmer, Matta but that might get all those grey haired white retirees from middle America frustrated or confused! “What am I suppose to think and feel about this!” You asked if there was psychedelics involved with my work, I will admit yes. I am also become very much interested in surrealism, both past and present. I very much love Giger, R.I.P. But I have become very interested in Ernst and other less “notables” as opposed to Dali or Magritte. Also artists under the title of “Visionary Artist”. The title has an air of pretentious hokum to the uninitiated. There are artist whom I have felt a kinship to and wanting to push myself more by their work. Ernst Fuchs, Adolph Hauser to name two. There is a really great book by Richard Sennett, “The Craftsman”, and he writes about the idea of what is craftsmanship, its historical, social and economic realities over time. What is means today as opposed to centuries past. An interesting read and one that strengthens my idea of art making. I trained in the university/academic art world (avant-gardism) and also pursued my interest in traditional figurative art (classical figurative training) while getting my degrees. I value the idea, perhaps anachronistic today, of the artist as craftsman who makes unique things with the hands, the heart and the mind. The novelist, the poet, the playwright, the sculptor, the painter, the composer, the musician (or band) who invest time, energy into creating a unique creation, that has not been seen or heard before in what ever way they are. There is a collection of essays by Jack Kerouac I read years ago about the Beats and the culture of the Beats. I remember he wrote about Bach, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh creating things that had never been seen or heard before nor would anything like it be repeated in such a way. It is perhaps the reality that today what is valued is what is familiar, repeatable, easily understood. No wonder everyone will get enthused about the next batch of Star Wars movies that will come out each year for the next 20 years. I write this reply while sitting in a Starbucks near my apartment complex. The ultimate example of uniqueness smothered in mass production and conformity. Perhaps it is the reality that painters working for some uniqueness will have a hard time in this kind of social and cultural era. It seems, from where I sit (literally) that there is a sort of mass conformity, a kind of blanket of commodified comfort, the recycling of past things continuously reintroduced securing ourselves of that all is normal and stable. Jesus, I feel like I am back in university with all this expounding of ideas! I have been trying to scrub all that graduate academic toxins of me with a wire bristled brush. “Unclean, Unclean, Unclean!” Back to reality, I need to get some steady work this summer, which is hard in Phoenix since the summers are brutal and the city slows down. Why the hell did a city get here when the summer heat pushes past 110 degrees! Keep up the art work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment. I’m doing a work based on Matta right now, incidentally. Should be ready in another day or two to share.

      Ernst is great. I like Fuchs. Also Tanguy and Kay Sage.

      Visionary artists. I think Alex Grey did some marvelous things (and some not so marvelous). Do you know Mati Klarwien? He did some great stuff. I interviews a “dark visionary artist” named Bryan Kent Ward a while ago. If you’ve heard of him, I’m impressed. Anyway, you might be interested in him and the art his likes. https://artofericwayne.com/2015/05/19/interview-with-dark-visionary-artist-bryan-kent-ward/

      In fact, if you like the interview, I feel like your writing is being wasted in the comments section, and since you are well articulate, if you are up for it, I could do an interview with you like the one I did with him. He had final “say-so” about everything.

      And I really agree with you about doing something new with the medium. That’s my objective as well. Is that outdated? Probably. That what I put on my application as an undergrad to UCLA. I gave examples of Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Mac Beckmann, Francesco Clemente, and El Greco as artist who manifested their unique vision in paint. That’s probably 25 years ago.

      Oh, yeah, I’m working on a new post/video about “Can You Buy Being A Great Artist” that deals with these rich and famous artists paying tons of money to get other people to make their stuff. The best example is Kanye’s piece, because the people who love Hirst and Koons and all, and see them as philosopher giants, aren’t read to accept Kanye among them. And yet he commissioned quite an impressive sculpture. If you haven’t seen it, uh, I wrote about it:https://artofericwayne.com/2016/09/03/kanye-wests-sculpture-killed-conceptual-art/

      I was doing some research and I found a video of a guy who did the animatronics for McCarthy’s Bush sodomizing pigs giant sculpture. The guy has been doing animatronics for over 20 years. That is the level of technical skill these artists are pay for, and then taking credit for. McCarthy has a completely realistic sculpture of himself lying down, every hair and poor replicated meticulously by experts.

      Oh well, thanks for writing again. I quite enjoyed your comment, not only because I agree with most, if not all of it, but you also express yourself very eloquently.

      Cheers

      Like

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