Over the past month or so a disturbing amount of bandwidth has been dedicated to explaining how not worth our attention Damien Hirst’s new diamond skull is.
The exemplar for this attitude is an early June post on Modern Art Notes. This is what it says in full:
“I don’t care. I simply, honestly don’t care. I didn’t care about his lame pill paintings at Gagosian a few years ago either. There’s nothing there worth thinking about. That is all.”
Isn’t a post that says “I don’t care” one of those twisty logical fallacy-thingies that contradicts itself just by existing, kind of like the statement “I am lying”?
Here’s a second, just for fun:
Damien Hirst skull o’ diamonds now on sale for 99 million. Big fat fucking deal.
The distaste for Hirst’s new work seems inspired by the insane amount of media coverage it’s gotten. But it’s also surprising, given the general sentiment in the arts blogosphere for placing or restoring the artist to the center of the whole art production machine. (and knocking down the dealers, auction houses, museums, etc., but not the critics)
I personally disagree with that somewhat romantic notion, but if I believed it, wouldn’t I want to champion Hirst as the living hero of the artist-first system? Here is an artist who, all quality judgments suspended, reached a position as one of the wealthiest and most famous people in Britain, without any outsized institutional or curatorial support, and without the mentorship of a single powerful dealer. He has done what he’s done all through his ability to self-promote and produce attention-grabbing work. (To the argument that it was Saatchi who made him, I think it might be more true that Hirst made Saatchi.) Isn’t that the artistic career ideal?
I think what we have here is a serious case of the player hates. The notoriety and the endless coverage that Hirst receives makes an objective response to his work impossible. We begrudge him his success.
Hirst’s skull has the price tag of a mid-range Hollywood movie budget, and the relentless media promotion is no less understandable than Kirsten Dunst spouting nonsense on Entertainment Tonight or Conan O’Brien. The promotion is there to drive up the value of the work. And when that’s done, whether it sells or it doesn’t sell, or it gets stolen or people stop caring, it’s going to be someone else’s problem. An expense and a hassle forever.
The new men’s fashion trend in NYC this summer looks like it’s rhinestone-skull black T-shirts. The imagery is converging from all sides.