The incredibly fortuitous timing of Damien Hirst’s “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”, the Sotheby’s sale/exhibition where he sold over £100 million of work on the week that the global financial markets imploded, seemed to present the art world with an obvious full-stop to not only the YBA phenomenon, but also the glut of contemporary conceptualism. The negative response has been gathering, slowed perhaps a little by the critics not wanting to seem as if they’re jumping on a ‘reactionary’ bandwagon. It is a long history to undermine too quickly; many careers have been built on preaching and promoting the faith of the institutional conceptualist market.
And following this the “Pop Life” show at Tate Modern has also received mixed reviews, with many critics focusing on the lack of irony in a show that celebrates the initial mocking nature of the Pop sensibility. Art that triumphed commercialism in a knowing fashion has become, particularly in this show it would seem, a sad parody of its ideological underpinning. It is no longer celebrated for the commercial, supposedly democratic, process of its mass-production. The focus of this art is now nothing more than its financial value. The only true hint of irony came when one of the contributing artists objected to the original show title of “Sold Out”, as if this celebratory acceptance of the value in art being decided by the investors and not the creators was beyond the pale. It seems that some of the artists want to have their cake and eat it, and now it is clear that they may not be the masters of their own careers to the extent they had recently thought. And out of this crisis of faith comes Damien Hirst… again…
I mentioned in my previous post that Hirst was rejecting conceptualist object making. Since that newspaper interview he has opened an exhibition of paintings at the Wallace Collection which, as far as I can see, has been universally critically derided. Not having seen the actual work in the flesh I’m not in a position to comment, however I am pretty sure that on the basis of what I have seen online they are not the worst paintings to have been let loose on the world in recent years – which is the impression we are being fed.
Perhaps they consider him a modern-day cultural Luther and this exhibition his personal Ninety-Five Theses.
Perhaps they’re worried that the supply of indulgences might dry up.
“Sacrificial self-indulgences” 1994