Damien Hirst may seem like an artist from another era already. But that doesn’t mean Hirst himself is willing to be relegated to an historical epoch that has passed. Two very different views of the artist appeared in the newspapers over the weekend. The first was a story in the Washington Post about Hirst’s Ukraining retrospective and the surprising resonance his art has with Ukrainians. This is what some said after viewing his massive 6-ft. ashtray filled with cigarette butts:
“He’s saying that by the end of your life, your ashtray is full,” suggests Invanka Yakovyne, a 17-year-old sporting lime green fingernails and red sneakers.
Oleksandr Derkach, 21, a student and writer, says he finds Hirst’s work extraordinary. “I think I might leave my body to an artist like this.”
Outside, the line to get in reaches halfway down the block; 10,000 people came to see the show in its first three days.
Eckhard Schneider, who came from Germany last fall to run the Pinchuk Art Center, says he found an enormous hunger in Ukraine for contemporary art, unlike anything he has seen in Western Europe or America.
“Here, everyone is thirsty for it. In the West, people think they know everything. They are jaded. They have arrogance about art,” he says. “I have even seen museum patrons there tell an artist what he should do. Really! Here, everything is fresh.”
Meanwhile, London is preparing for Hirst’s show of new paintings at the Wallace collection where the only previous solo show for a living artist was held by Lucian Freud. Much has been made about the new canvases being painted by Hirst himself, including these remarks by Hirst in the Telegraph:
Hirst said that he wanted to be recognised as a “painter” and acknowledged that the contemporary art market was struggling and that conceptual artists would find it increasingly difficult to sell their work in the current economic climate.
“I’ve always loved the idea of being a painter… above either artist or sculptor,” he said. [ . . . ] “They are very different to my other work. It feels very odd to be painting on my own.”
Andrew Graham-Dixon, the Telegraph’s art critic, tries to remain politic in the same piece:
It is as if he is really trying to step across a particular line to enter the arena of the likes of Rembrandt and Bacon, but being a painter is something that if he wants to do it well, may take him a while longer.
“By hanging them in the Wallace Collection, maybe he wants to have a sense of knowing whether he’s creating objects that can endure or have the same presence as the old masters. If that is the case, he might be a bit disappointed.”
The Art World’s Shark Man, Still in the Swim (Washington Post)