Art News Flash – Damien Hirst Arrested !!!
‘News Flash: Damien Hirst Arrested for Crimes Against the Art Market’ is a headline that I would love to see appear in every news source world wide. Although I am all for artists making money from their art and promoting art as a profitable investment I think that the actions of Damien Hirst have been detrimental to the short term perception and long term stability of the art market. What crimes has Damien Hirst committed against the art market I hear you ask, well, here are five:
1.Exploitation of art market for monetary gain – If Damien Hirst is as committed to art as one is led to believe then why did he sell “For The Love of God” for 50 million pounds when it only cost 14 million pounds to create. The sale of the skull for 50 million pounds makes it the most expensive “artwork” purchased by a living artist but I cannot see how Hirst can justify selling the artwork for this price when the concept is weak, there is virtually no provenance, there are questions about it’s originality and issues with it’s intrinsic value. A profit of one million dollars would have been significant but a profit of thirty six million dollars is ludicrous.
2. Creating false expectations of the art market – $100 million dollars is the price you would expect to pay for an artwork by an artist such as Picasso, Pollock or Van Gogh whose life long dedication to fine art and their contributions to the art world have resulted in a legacy that is reflected in the value of their work. The prices that Hirst is asking for his work do not reflect Hirst’s status, position and ranking within the art world and therefore by asking such a high price in a market that is cashed up Hirst is basically creating an inflationary effect.
3. Plagiarism – Artist John Lekay who claims to have been a friend of Hirst’s in the past, even sharing a mixed show with Hirst in 1994, has been producing skulls encrusted with various different jewels since 1993 which he claims Hirst has copied. In an article in the UK Times Online Newspaper Lekay is quoted as saying “When I heard he was doing it, I felt like I was being punched in the gut. When I saw the image online, I felt that a part of me was in the piece. I was a bit shocked.”
4. Possible collusion with investors – Selling the skull to a group of investors and keeping a stake in the artwork to capitalise on a global exhibition of the work that the group of investors is organising could be seen as a conflict of interest on Hirst’s part especially considering that the price of the work was so ridiculously high that one could question the reasons that this group of investors were willing to pay so much for the work.
5. False classification of skull as an artwork – The Art Review magazine made the comment that: “The diamond-studded death’s head could be a fashion statement, a bejewelled accessory or a dazzling effigy to all things chav. Instead it’s high art… With the skull Hirst has gone too far.” and art expert Charles Dupplin said that “This is a spectacular piece and undoubtedly the work with the highest intrinsic value in modern and contemporary art.” Both these comments suggest that Hirst’s skull is merely a decorative object with intrinsic value only, and not a piece of fine art, which I totally agree with.
Now all I need to do is get some new laws passed….
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.