Monday, September 15, 2008

God Bless You, Mr. Hughes.

Having read recently about Damien Hirst's lots of work going directly to auction - avoiding all together the gallery setting - I was pleased to learn that on Sept 7, art critic Robert Hughes called Damien Hirst's work tacky, and the overblown commercial success of the work was a disparage to the art market. A couple days later, Hirst responded that the commercial quality of his work is no different than Velazquez or Goya.

Over the weekend, Hughes's response to Hirst's defense (and proclamation that Hughes is a luddite... a man who finds the work of Paik and Turrell amongst the best of the 20th Century) was published in the Guardian. Apart from such zinggers as, "...Charles Saatchi, that untiring patron of the briefly new," I think the following is my favorite paragraph/sentence.
The now famous diamond-encrusted skull, lately unveiled to a gawping art world amid deluges of hype, is a letdown unless you believe the unverifiable claims about its cash value, and are mesmerised by mere bling of rather secondary quality; as a spectacle of transformation and terror, the sugar skulls sold on any Mexican street corner on the Day of the Dead are 10 times as vivid and, as a bonus, raise real issues about death and its relation to religious belief in a way that is genuinely democratic, not just a vicarious spectacle for money groupies such as Hirst and his admirers.
Pure poetry.

Whenever irony became the chief buzz word to defend a work of art as significant, Hirst's work is without question a reminder of how thin that veil can be. In the case of Hirst, or for that matter Koons - to borrow from Dennis Miller - that veil can get as thin as "used Neutrogeena," and tends to be as ironic as Alanis Morissette's moronic song about unfortunate circumstances.

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