Damien Hirst and the Bursting Art Bubble
In mid December controversial and super-rich British artist Damien Hirst parted company with art dealer and gallerist Larry Gagosian. The split was the end of a lucrative 17-year relationship with Gagosian Gallery that had famously put 331 of Hirst’s “spot” paintings on display in all 11 Gagosian spaces worldwide. For Esquire magazine’s Stephen Marche the break up marks more than just the death of a dynasty but it’s a move that signals the end of an art bubble economy based on hype where exorbitant prices are paid for work that’s basically bullshit–the latest economic bubble to burst. Marche writes:
“Hirst’s steep decline is partly due to the basic fact that he’s been making terrible art for the last few years. He has produced some dreadful still lifes and a magnificently grotesque sculpture that is both ugly and pointless and, much less forgivable, not particularly interesting. But diminishing quality doesn’t explain the ferocity of the collapse. The value of works that have been much feted, and which have made him among the richest artists in the world, with a fortune somewhere in the vicinity of 400 million dollars, has been declining steadily. If you own a Hirst, sell now. The value of Hirst paintings sold between 2005 and 2008 have taken nearly a 30 percent bath in the meantime. Since 2009, a third of his works have failed to sell at auction.”
A dose of cold hard criticism and reality for hypebeasts who thought they were making a foray into fine art by buying Hirst’s Supreme skate decks. Marche continues on about the art bubble:
“Hirst’s work was always interesting only to the extent of what people were willing to pay for it. He took Warholian superficiality to its logical conclusion, which is why, even in defeat, he is still the most representative artist of his time. The definitive quote about Damien Hirst comes from John Lanchester’s novel, Capital, my book of the year for 2012. The novel’s main character, a city banker named Roger, owns a Hirst spot painting: “Roger’s considered view of the painting, looking at it from aesthetic, art-historical, interior-design, and psychological points of view, was that it had cost forty-seven thousand pounds, plus V.A.T.””
When the thin line between art collector with a lot of money and person with a lot of money who invests in art disintegrates in a wave of hype you get the problematic art market of today. Marche isn’t the first person to call “bullshit” on Hirst. In the video below artist turned YouTube phenom Hennessy Youngman probably skewered Hirst more concisely than any serious art critic could. This is what happens when, to paraphrase Youngman, money is your medium. What do you think? Has the art bubble burst?
Super LOLZ at “A perfect storm of banality. “Read the complete Marche piece at Esquire.