Damien Hirst: From formaldehyde to golden hooves

Posted by HC in Art / Controversies / Ethics on 16 September 2008

How delicious that Damien Hirst has cleaned up even as the media tell us that it’s all up for over-weaning capitalist thugs – his customers. What’s truly miraculous is that the art magnate and entrepreneur manages to come across as cheerfully demotic and populist as he rakes in the lucre.¬†What we sense, of course, is that Hirst’s work is an essay in shock-value. He plays games with what offends us and the value we will place on things. Skulls and diamonds, and stuffed calves and gold leaf, are the ideal art objects for a period of capitalist hiatus. These bad times are perfect times for Hirst’s art and its value.

It’s an abiding mystery that the very rich don’t feel the pinches that the ordinary rich do. Sunseeker, the yachtmaker, said the other day that their multi-million speedboats were keeping the business afloat even as the bottom end of their market was feeling the pinch. There will always be plenty of multi-millionaires to buy Hirst, even in the depth of a recession.

In Hirts’s case, we have all the conundrums that art always presents. After all, we have no idea whether his pieces will grow more valuable as works of art, or be stripped down for whatever their raw materials are worth. In short, his works may be thought risible quite soon. Or not.

Then there’s the intriguing business of what Hirst will do with his loot. He might just become an ordinarily rich person. But it is just as likely that his wealth will be folded back to us all as his audience. Perhaps he’ll start a gallery or a foundation. Whatever.

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