Rachel Campbell-Johnson flings a little sneer at Damien Hirst in the Times of London‘s review of the decade calling him the face of the decade in art but hardly meaning it as praise. Critics may loathe Hirst the way they get apoplectic over Koons but they never fail to cite the diamond skull as emblematic of the first decade of the 21st Century. In that sense, Hirst has to be accepted as the preeminent artist of the era.
Hirst’s bespectacled mug has dominated the British art scene over the past decade since he led his gang of Goldsmiths-trained artists out of the garret and into the market. He capitalised on a global financial boom, flinging anything from mass-produced spot paintings to that £50 million diamond skull into the commercial arena — and buyers fought to snap it up. Even when banking systems crumbled he remained undaunted.
At some point, the syndicate will surely donate the skull to a museum–and is there an institution that would refuse it?–and declare victory. The only battle will be over the tax evaluation. Meanwhile, Campbell-Johnson misses the real point behind Hirst’s stunning retreat of the only art he’s created that has any meaning. With the Hirst auction taking place as Lehman Brothers collapsed and the artist shutting down his operations shortly after by dismissing the bulk of his staff, we have the rare coincedence of both an economic and cultural era ending with such spooky precision.
Did Hirst sense this? Or simply run out of energy at the same time his epoch ended? On the bright side, can anyone think of a less interesting object than a conceptual Hirst work produced after September 2008?
The Decade in the Visual Arts (Times of London)