The Tate Modern in London is currently displaying a retrospective of the works of the artist Damien Hirst. Hirst, along with the likes of Tracey Emin and probably some other charlatans I can’t be bothered to Google, has long been at the forefront of British modern art. He is also believed to be England’s richest artist, with a personal fortune in the region of £200 million.
The museum has long been home to the pretentious creations of conceptual artists like Hirst. Its Turbine Hall has hosted its share of ridiculous exhibits, like Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds, consisting of a hundred million individually painted porcelain seeds. The most preposterous, however, was surely Shibboleth, a 500-foot crack in the middle of the gallery floor, apparently representing ‘borders, the experience of immigrants, the experience of segregation, the experience of racial hatred.’ But of course. In the first month of its display fifteen people suffered minor injuries as a result of the crack, which says about as much for the intelligence of the modern art-loving public as it does for the creative genius behind this contrived work of nonsense.
Hirst himself has stated his favourite piece of conceptual art is An Oak Tree by Michael Craig-Martin, which basically consists of a glass of water masquerading as an oak tree. Anyone who can make it through the Wikipedia page for this particular work of art without laughing at the absurdity of its renown in the art world is probably the kind of person who’d gladly part with their prized cow for some magic beans, or with their hard-earned cash for some hand-painted porcelain seeds, as the case may be.
Hirst’s back catalogue boasts some fairly ostentatious works itself, such as For The Love of God, a human skull adorned with about £15 million worth of diamonds, and The Golden Calf, which has 18-carat gold horns and hooves. Obviously no recession in the British art world then. His most famous work is probably his shark preserved in formaldehyde, whose official title is The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Naturally. Surprisingly enough it’s just a regular run-of-the-mill shark, not one made out of Fabergé eggs and Stradivarius violins.
Aside from selling his exhibits to benefactors like Charles Saatchi for millions, Hirst also lines his pockets with accompanying merchandise, which somewhat dilutes whatever credibility he had left as a genuine artist. The shop at the Tate is presently selling Hirst-designed wallpaper for £250 a roll, sets of plates for £12,500, and plastic replicas of the crystal skull for a whopping £36,800. The exorbitant prices his works command seem even more ludicrous when you consider the fact that he doesn’t even create most of them. Most of his famed Warhol-influenced ‘dot paintings’ are produced by a team of assistants. Rumour also has it that he didn’t even catch his famous shark himself. What a fraud.
As well as using his art to announce his limited creativity and lack of imagination, Hirst is also prone to the occasional verbal gaffe that exposes his ignorance. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks he lauded the terrorist act as a work of art in itself, remarking that ‘you’ve got to hand it to them on some level.’ I can just imagine the connoisseurs of the art world arguing over whether the destruction of the towers was more art deco or art nouveau. Maybe Damien should put an airborne stockbroker in formaldehyde and see how many millions it makes? He could call it The Physical Impossibility of Damien Hirst Not Being an Insensitive Twat.
When one surveys the sheer amount of derivative rubbish that passes for fine art and demands outrageously high prices, it’s enough to encourage anyone’s latent artistic tendencies. I think I could probably come up with a few ideas the Tate might be interested in exhibiting.
How about The Inescapable Magnitude of the Human Condition, a tiny man made out of lollipop sticks left in the middle of an empty aircraft hangar, in order to symbolise the isolation inherent in the human experience?
Or perhaps The Incomprehensibly Incoherent Nature of the Ambiguously Titled Exhibit, a complex allegory for the loss of innocence in war that consists of three naked fat men swimming in a giant bowl of custard?
My masterpiece, however, would have to be The Hole, a giant hole in the middle of the Turbine Hall, into which are placed all of the artists whose work has been displayed there, along with a single gun and a rope ladder. As soon as one person makes it out, the hole is instantly filled with hundreds of litres of formaldehyde, thus becoming a permanent exhibit. I think even the most vocal critics of modern art would enjoy seeing that one. Now all I need is to finish off the design for my accompanying crockery set. Turner Prize here I come.