A view of one of the previews for Damien Hirst’s spot painting shows in Chelsea (via Kyle Chayka’s Instagram)

This comment from Berkeley, California-base Kathleen King popped up on our Facebook page regarding our “Damien Hirst’s Power to Piss People Off” post.

Artist William Powhida had this response in the comments section of the blogazine, it is addressed to the author:


I don’t think Will Brand is being hysterical in relation to the scope of Hirst’s exhibition and his claim to being the most important artist of our time.  It’s impossible not recognize that claim by anyone who fills 11 Gagosian™ galleries around the globe simultaneously with anything; spots, piles of gold shit, naked performers, iPad paintings done by hand, toxic grains of rice…whatever.  I think Will’s comment is representative of the 99.99% of Western Civilization that doesn’t own or give a shit about the Spot Paintings.  As a response, Will’s response is perfectly delivered and why its also my favorite so far.

Unfortunately, I feel like you’re giving #SHARKFACE a critical intention that his previous work, actions, statements, and general attitude only imply.  He’s not satirizing his own value or influence, nor providing the framing devices to give critics an entry point to say “Hirst is trying to tell us that part of the problem with contemporary art must be with the collectors who bought these and willing loaned them out for what amounts to a 1% response to OWS, a giant ‘Fuck You’ to the rest of the world.”  Really, he’s just given us spectacle of what it looks like to concentrate so much economic wealth and symbolic value in the hands of the few (well, two people; Damien Hirst and Larry Gagosian) that is very difficult to ignore.  Plus, based on the length of Roberta Smith’s New York Times Review alone, every spot painting should increase in value nicely.  Having some experience with simultaneously boring and infuriating people, it’s very clear to me that the art world isn’t very good at differentiating between satire and genuine art world assholery.  In this case, I think you’re making Hirst out to be a better artist than he has become inured under mountains of cash, real estate, and celebrity isolation.  I think the most telling point of this is that the only people who aren’t bored, pissed, or infuriated are the collectors who bought this shit, so I think he fails the John Waters litmus test badly.  If one irate collector speaks out or the spots flood auction and hemorrhage value, then we’ll know maybe he succeeded.   Hell, he didn’t really even piss you off.

It’s not so much infuriating as it is deeply sad about how this period of art, symbolized by Hirst’s global victory march, will be represented in the history books.  I hope the next chapter is about the revolution that followed…and how challenging it is 2212 to find any spot paintings or, for example, luxury condos next to housing projects.



Steven Ketchum has a whole other approach that he expresses in his comment on the post:

I’m intrigued that there’s so much concern over how we’ll look to those in the future.  It illustrates how helpless we feel today at these art establishments and at the banal work these systems encourage.I doubt there’s much we can do to prevent sales of such work.  “A fool and his money are soon parted.”  The best thing we can do, if we want to improve our current situation, is encourage artwork that does something more.Seeing all the energy that goes into these Hirst articles (and responses) becomes as repetitive as … well … dots.
And Krystal Floyd found something to like in them:

I don’t know … it seems like the fashionable thing is to hate Damien Hirst. And the frustrating thing was to stand in front of the paintings last night and watch the spots pop out of and recede into the white canvas. And to try to stop the urge to check for repeated colors or equal spacing or patterns. Especially since following these thoughts resulted in further visual effects from the spots. Despite the show being a BIT over-publicized (harhar), I was surprised that there were actual visual effects going on — more than can be said for a lot of art. And maybe the discontent over their construction IS the conceptual part. And I find it hard not to draw parallels to modern life in that. Not saying the work is worth the pricetags, but maybe he’s just not an artist’s artist. That’s OK. Edgy outsider artists need things to rebel against. Only things considered this generally repulsive can and have spark(ed) the subsequent revolution …

And we mined this by art critic Carolina Miranda from Twitter:


Hmm … we’ve never seen both in the same room …

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

3 replies on “Spotty Comments of the Day: Hirst-a-palooza”

  1. Maybe one day we’ll also escape the disconnect of “artists make money”. 
    Wrapped up in that is the current art economy and its celebrities, as well as the tendency to equate (intrinsic, historic, cultural, etc) value with ticket price; we have a sadomasochistic populist art culture that still romanticizes the starving artist (before we enter into the discourse on marginalized identities, least of which is economic class).

    Damien Hirst is just an awfully easy man to hate (because his work shines a light on himself and the way his work winds its way through the art world, but that Po-Mo trick gets played out after a while).

  2. I love Hirst and really don’t understand all the hatred for him?  he’s following a path that people like Warhol made themselves rich and famous on and that is having others do the tedious physical work of actually creating the art at your directive while you sit back and spin about your own fabulousness and count stacks of cash.  Koons does it too – BFD, I still wish I owned pieces by ANY of them!!

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