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I kind of hate to debate Damien Hirst here, because there are better artists who never get attention, but the current paintings at Gagosian do look more interesting in photographs than live so I'm quoting the following exchange from the comments as a public service. It's also "my position on Hirst," for what that's worth. Sally McKay said:
[T]here was another drug painted in the show [besides the Paracetamol reproduced here]--- I can't remember now, an antidepressent ...xanax? with yellow on the label. Anyhow, I saw slides of the show at a symposium and the woman next to me pulled my sleeve excitedly and said "I take that one!" We both gave a little "whoo-hoo" cheer from the cheap seats which mystified the rest of the audience a bit. Anyhow, I started seeing this show as a kind of greatest hits of contemporary apathy. I've been instructed already here and elsewhere as to how bad the paintings were. But Damien Hirst is such a cypher, I'm not satisfied just ascribing this crappy output to one guy having a bad idea. He's an institution, and if his art is coming out as lame crap then there's a cultural balloon floating lame crap that is worth trying to look at.And my reply:
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes tossed-off paintings of "anomic" subjects are...
This is the third Gagosian show I've seen of Hirst's, plus the pieces in "Sensation" and a dramatic but poorly conceived museum show in Dallas, when he still just a lad. He is only a passable fabricator, with a knack for making work that almost always looks better in photos than in person. It was disappointing after experiencing the work of our own very thorough and meticulous bad boy Jeff Koons to see that Hirst's shark was held up inside the tank with cheap fishing line that sort of bites into the sagging creature, and that the sections of cut up cow were affixed to the insides of their vitrines with plastic safety ties. We Koons fans take it on faith that our guy would have figured out a way to make the former seem weightless and latter sandwiched tightly between glass surfaces, or he wouldn't have done the show (after all, he spent years working on a Guggenheim exhibit that never happened, legend has it, because he couldn't resolve certain fabrication issues). I gave Hirst a pass for ambition--we all do. But these paintings weren't ambitious, they were a retrenchment, a mere sellout disguised (in plain sight) as a fuck you, with what I would describe as textbook negative content (blood, check; gross organs, got em; media photos of woman on crack, oh yeah...).
Your "greatest hits of contemporary apathy" is a great line--hopefully someone will do that show someday.