Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Artist, Thinker and Builder (all or nothing...)

Briton Damien Hirst is considered by many critics to be artistic royalty. The following is a fairly accurate description of his process that I ripped off of Wikipedia (hey, sometimes they get their facts right):

Although Hirst participated physically in the making of early works, he has always needed assistants, and now the volume of work produced necessitates a "factory" setup, akin to Andy Warhol's or a Renaissance studio. This has led to questions about authenticity, as was highlighted in 1997, when a spin painting that Hirst said was a "forgery" appeared at sale, although he had previously said that he often had nothing to do with the creation of these pieces.

Hirst said that he only painted five spot paintings himself because, "I couldn't be fucking arsed doing it"; he described his efforts as "shite"—"They're shit compared to ... the best person who ever painted spots for me was Rachel. She's brilliant. Absolutely fucking brilliant. The best spot painting you can have by me is one painted by Rachel." He also describes another painting assistant who was leaving and asked for one of the paintings. Hirst told her to, "'make one of your own.' And she said, 'No, I want one of yours.' But the only difference, between one painted by her and one of mine, is the money.'" By February 1999, two assistants had painted 300 spot paintings.

Hirst sees the real creative act as being the conception, not the execution, and that, as the progenitor of the idea, he is therefore the artist: Art goes on in your head," he says. "If you said something interesting, that might be a title for a work of art and I'd write it down. Art comes from everywhere. It's your response to your surroundings. There are on-going ideas I've been working out for years, like how to make a rainbow in a gallery. I've always got a massive list of titles, of ideas for shows, and of works without titles.

I realize that Hirst’s work is exactly the type of stuff that the Stuckists hate; but I think we differ in the reason for our disdain. I have no problem with the conceptual nature of his work, but I do have a bit of a problem with the concept of “factory art” or the promotion of work not actually created by the artist. Similarly, though I love the work of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, I take the same issues of authenticity with his work. In my mind, “made by the studio” does not equal “made by the artist”.

In 1994, Hirst curated the show, Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away, at the Serpentine Gallery in London, where he exhibited Away from the Flock (a sheep in a tank). In May, a disgruntled artist poured black ink into it, and was subsequently prosecuted, at Hirst's wish. The sculpture was restored at a cost of £1000.

How can Hirst philosophically deny the actions of another artist on his conceptual pieces? They are conceptual, constantly-changing, and continuously alive (even in their representation of death). Personally, I believe he should have left the work (as it was dyed by the offending artist) as a testament to the living nature of conceptual art and as a stab at the disgruntled artist that attempted to destroy it (by ironically contributing to it's ever-evolving creation, instead). – DN


Anonymous said...

Can the same be said of some of the works of Picasso? as in pottery for example? There are alot of thing attributed to him, but not made by him. On this subject I get confused so easily.
JN said...

Absolutely. I take the same issue with Rembrandt, and the majority of Renaissance artists. Warhol was notoriously the worst at this "kinda thievery". - DN

Elise Tomlinson said...

I've never been that fond of Hirst, and the concept of "factory art" just pisses me off...but's a free market society so whatever people are willing to buy, if it floats their boat.