[intro]A Portrait of the Artist as an . . . Artist[/intro]
Sarah Thornton went to visit Damien Hirst in his studio to see the famous conceptual artist as he begins a new career as a painter. Thornton’s article is too long–and too driven by the rambling quotations Hirst gave during the interview–to be summarized in any meaningful way. But it does offer the first glimpses of a different Damien Hirst, though one still in love with the idea of himself. Here are a few of the highlights from the story:
- “What you’re making dictates how many you make,” explains Hirst. “The art market is a lot bigger than anybody realises. You could say I used to be prolific, but I’m not any more. Without the assistants, there’s nowhere near the volume. I’m not afraid of that.” He picks up a big brush thick with goopy grey paint and tosses it in the air like a baton. “You get a lot more activity if you make more work. Like John Currin… the market can’t really get going because there is not enough of his work in circulation. If you’re interested in the art-market side of things, then it is to your advantage to make more.”
- Hirst appears. His grey shorts and brown hoodie are flecked with multicoloured paint. His T-shirt declares: “You’ll Go To Hell for What Your Dirty Mind is Thinking”. The three of us walk through the rain to his painting “shed”, which no journalist has yet had the opportunity to visit. Hirst explains that the building was originally a railway signal box to which he added a chimney and windows. “It was intended to be a guesthouse but nobody really stayed here,” he says. “Then when I decided to paint, I thought, ‘Where will I do it?’ And I just moved in.” As we walk round the new indoor pool and gymnasium (on which no expense seems to have been spared), I catch sight of Hirst’s studio. Modest isn’t the right word. Shabby isn’t either. It’s a nostalgic fantasy of a bohemian painter’s shack. The wooden facade is covered in drips of turquoise and splashes of black. Inside, it’s dark, crowded and garret-like, with exposed rafters and bare light bulbs, reminiscent of Bacon’s studio. A dozen canvases are stacked against each other; some face out, others stare at the wall.
- A huge short-haired cat called Stanley lounges on the dining table between two Warhols — a grey skull painting and a stunning little red car crash from 1963 titled Five Deaths. Hirst and I resume our conversation in the TV room. We sit on beanbags under a Bacon self-portrait that Hirst acquired at auction for $33m. The room has acid-yellow walls and a blue carpet. The large-screen television sits on a wall between another Warhol, an orange Little Electric Chair, and an important Bacon from 1943-44. It’s the original left-hand panel of Tate Britain’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. The installation couldn’t be more art-historically relevant, tracing Hirst’s aspirations from Warhol to Bacon in a room devoted to media.
The Reinvention of Artist Damien Hirst (Times of London)