Yes!!! Yes!!! Please, art world, please! Let’s make this happen. Let’s stop alienating the rest of the world with pieces that we all pretend is high art but is nothing but schlock.
Apparently, Hirst’s works are now dropping in value. What were once hot commodities are now failing to sell, and people who invested on his works are losing money. While the British press has always seem to have been against Hirst’s bombastic brand of kitsch, it seems like the rest of the world is finally starting to catch up. I hope this trend continues. I hope we all stop paying attention to what is shocking and excessive, and not trust people trained in sales to see what is really not there. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” Sure… maybe… or it could very well be just pieces of fish submerged in formaldehyde. Was it hard imagining such concept? Maybe? It’s also not hard imagining a bicycle wheel stuck on a stool. But the difference between Marcel Duchamp and Damien Hirst is that Duchamp’s readymades seek to arrive at a higher purpose, to find an antidote to art that is purely visual. Duchamp’s works gave form to conceptual art, where the idea came first and the visual arrives soon after. There is humor in them. He challenged what is and what is not art. The rise of Hirst however tells me nothing but the story of excess. Of how a good salesman who knows the right people could make ridiculous amount of money selling pointless art that shocks. Nothing else.
Like a scary movie based on jump scares, as opposed to a psychological thriller which haunts you… you get over it and move on with your life. The makers of the movie however, make off with your money.
The reason why I’m happy about the news regarding Hirst is that I believe that the art world, if it continues to celebrate shocking, pointless art, it’s bound to self-destruct. Artists will be creating pointless, self-promoting pieces in the hopes of getting rewarded, while traditional artists move on with their life and get “real” jobs. It reinforces the stereotype that art is pointless and weird, and lay people would continue to devalue it. Instead of learning how to paint or draw, young artists would be incentivized to thinking of schemes on how to grab headlines. A vagina painting here, a semen painting there. Forget drawing or painting figures, how could you make a story go viral? And that is the danger. That is the nail in the coffin. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone” is like the “Gangnam Style” of the art world. It’s a shallow concept with an interesting visual. If anything, most of the beauty of the piece stems from the shark’s very nature. A person would be better off looking at a real shark in an aquarium. The work grabs headlines, but in the long run it is not as significant conceptually and artistically as Duchamp’s name on a urinal. It does not teach us anything. What shocks a person now would not shock a person ten or twenty years from now. That makes whatever is viral right now utterly boring and forgettable in a few years.
The Guardian piece notes, “Artists should be able to draw, paint, or sculpt, says the ordinary person, but all Hirst and his ilk can do is shock.” I agree to this sentiment to an extent. One of the criticisms to the movie “Whiplash” is that it pushes the notion that you can train someone to become a genius. True, great artists are sometimes just born, and training and technical accomplishment alone does not make someone a great artist. But what about the work? Let us judge artists by their works and not the artist as a person (although I could talk forever about my frustration with some artists marketing themselves instead of their works). Is the work in itself genius? Is there an incredible amount of skill involved in its creation? What I despise about the rise of Hirst, is that the works are called genius despite the fact that there is no skill or technical accomplishment displayed in the pieces. And as for genius, I believe the idea is schlock and not that special at all.