I wanted to wait until long after the hype had peaked before I weighed in on "The Damien Hirst Problem". So, I just sat back and watched you all scream until you lost your voices. It was quite a show. Not the spots at Gagosian, but the screaming. With every wrathful moan, the value of those pieces rose exponentially. I understand all the chatter. I even understand the rage, but it's getting harder and harder for me to hate Hirst. Because, when all is said and done, the Damien Hirst Problem is you.
Of course, the spots are nothing new. He's been churning them out for well over two decades. No two spots are exactly the same color? How revolutionary! It wouldn't have mattered, if only they had been dismissed at once. Rotting cow heads, fish in formaldehyde, butterflies glued onto looming surfaces, vitrines, medicine cabinets...and spots. All of this had been done before. Yet still you talk about it, and thus Hirst is perhaps the wealthiest artist alive.
Damien Hirst doesn't take himself as seriously as you do! Have you seen his titles? "Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding"? He's mocking you!!!
You know what it took for him to get here? One sale. Just one, to Charles Saatchi in 1991 and Hirst was off to the races. Bam! High Art cred firmly and irrevocably established. That's all it takes. That one "right" sale to that one "right" person. Then you just keep them talking. Hell, you don't even have to do the work yourself after that. Hirst doesn't. Jeff Koons doesn't. Still, their "work" sells for tens of millions. May we all find our Saatchi.
In September of 2010, The Guardian ran an article that cited 15 counts of plagiarism by Hirst. This fueled the discussion further. At first I was appalled too, but then I started thinking about it. Many of the instances mentioned as plagiarism, had in fact been done in various forms before. Most obviously, by Rauschenberg, or any entomologist worth his salt. I also remembered that I had been making "spin art" with a toy contraption when I was five. Art has always been cannibalistic. Picasso didn't invent cubism. African tribes did, thousands of years ago. Don't hate Damien Hirst because he's a thief. Hate only that you're talking about him.
As an artist who has to scratch and claw for every dollar I can get for my work, I know how infuriating this can be. But I'm at the point now, where my hats off to anybody who makes it. Good for them. They beat the system. Is Damien Hirst any more important in the annals of art history, than Thomas Kinkade? Hell no! But he carved out his slot, so let him have it.
The "system" of the art world is as corrupt and broken as congress is. It's arcane and needs to be restructured. It gets pretty exhausting to be rejected by galleries over and over, just to see them show variations on the Mark Ryden theme (which is appropriated from Margaret Keane to begin with). Yet, I can't be angry at an artist making a living. So, I'm conserving my ire for the curators and collectors, and *ahem* critics...and for anybody who Facebooked or Tweeted about how angry the Hirst attention made them. He doesn't need you. If no one went to the Gagosian, if no one talked about the show, the "market value" of a Damien Hirst piece would plummet. And Damien would be just fine. He would still party with rock stars, and drop his pants at a moments notice, and urinate from the bow of his yacht.
Damien Hirst is the price we pay for our own ignorance.
But this is not about Damien Hirst.
It's about you. The "Damien Hirst Problem" is you.
Dammit Andy, it's the soup cans all over again.