“Damien Hirst died,” the salesperson at Barney’s told me in earnest this Friday. WHAT? Why hadn’t I heard? I asked, and promptly googled it. The first hit was an article in The Village Voice entitled “Damien Hirst: (1965-2012) In Memoriam.” IT’S TRUE! I told her, although, confused, I tried looking for a NYTimes obit. Then I got home and read the article. They were talking about his career. WHOOPS!
The original spot painting By Damien Hirst, 1986
I wasn’t going to write about the showing/publicity stunt of Damien Hirst & The Gagosian Gallery’s THE COMPLETE SPOT PAINTINGS 1986-2011.
My favorite quote was from the NYTimes reviewer who said “The good news, of course, is that they’re not all in one place. And none involve dead animals, maggots, encrusted diamonds or vats of formaldehyde. They’re mostly just grids of repeating, neatly made circles, each a different color. How bad can it be?” Answer: The show is at times “rather good” at times, and at others “oppressive”, “ludicrous” monotonous and “very bad.” Some canvases pulse and sing while others fall flat.
Basically, Damien Hirst and his assistants have produced over 1500 of these paintings between 1986 and 2011, and are showing 331 of them simultaneously in Gagosian galleries worldwide, prompting one attendee to say “The sun doesn’t set on the spot paintings.” (Hirst is also rewarding anyone who visits all 11 galleries with a signed print. HA!)
The spot paitnings are a series of enamel high gloss circles painted onto canvases. The diameter of the spot is equal to the space between them, and no color can repeat on a canvas, although they come quite close. Apparently, Hirst has only painted 5 of the 1500 of these paintings himself, although he claims that true art is in the conception and that he has been involved in every aspect of their making. He even went so far to say ”The best spot painting you can have by me, is one by my assistant Rachel. Mine are shite compared to hers.” (The highest price ever paid for one was $3.48 million.)
Why am I writing about it then? Because I LOVE seeing the original spot painting and where Hirst took it conceptually from there. Personally, I enjoy the original the most: the messy, drippy, blobby conceptual fetus of a canvas. Its interesting to me to see how far he took it. It really is. The problem is, that the entire formula and the idea of this formulaic making of art has gotten a bit boring after 1500 different incarnations, obviously.What could motivate this man to keep making these things other than money?
Furthermore, the original painting reminds me a lot of my mini paintings: a somewhat under baked idea that is a visually appealing expression of color… It makes me want to develop it further, but not to the point of 1500 paintings.
As Andy Warhol has famously said ” Art is what you can get away with.” Right?
You can visit the spot paintings in a Gagosian Gallery near you until late February. Click HERE for details.