I am really not bothered on whether Damien Hirst’s latest spot paintings were created personally by him or by his trusted assistants. I’ve decided not to jump on the bandwagon and just leave that discussion to the art experts and the critics. It also doesn’t really matter to me if people accuse him of being just a brand than an artist. Time will tell whether the sharks, the diamond skulls and the golden calves in formaldehyde would withstand the hype of the present and would be something people of the future would queue all day for, the same way we do now for example, to see works of masters like Leonardo da Vinci.
Behind all this no-care-for-the-world musings, this didn’t stop me from going to the opening at the Other Criteria gallery in the beginning of January hoping to meet the man. I’d be a hypocrite if I say, I wouldn’t be starstruck. He is after all, Damien Hirst, the richest living British artist and one who can command just about £1 million for a spot painting. It is depressing to know that I could create circles all day and still nobody will give me a penny.
And probably – aside from the audacity of his past works – Damien Hirst’s other great contribution to art is creating the status for super rich and bankable artists, making art suddenly an important and viable profession. Becoming an artist has suddenly become not just for the creatively passionate, but a real trade where business and strategy are part of the game.
In my mind, Damien Hirst knows how to make art that stirs discussion but also stirs the pockets.
And whether he is a great artist or not, the fact that people have strong opinions about Damien’s art is an indication of his ingenuity. When I saw his spot paintings at Other Criteria and also at the Gagosian in Britannia Street, I forgot all the brouhaha about his assistants doing the leg work for his paintings. What I really wanted to know was what drove him to suddenly abandon his preoccupation with death and immortality and jump to the joy of painting circles.
He mentioned once that the concept of immortality is a dead-end. I just want to ask what could possibly be next after these dots? How will he get out of it? What’s going to be next for Damien Hirst? If immortality has ended for him and these dots provide his transition as an artist, what could possibly be his next direction?
These colourful spots in a big gallery space such as the Gagosian just puts you in such a playful mode. People posed and took pictures of themselves and their friends with the dots. Even the Gagosian invigilators suddenly allowed me to take pictures, who are often adamant about taking photos. The spot paintings had truly made us all dotty.