I finally got around to seeing the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern. I'm not a fan of Mr Hirst but it cost me nothing but time to check it out (that's the joy of corporate membership).
All of the familiar elements were there, spin paintings, spots, skulls, cigarette ends, gemstones, flies, butterflies, rotting meat, sharks and other assorted dead creatures and substantial quantities of the aforementioned formaldehyde. No jewel encrusted skull though, that moved on towards the end of June.It obviously had a better place to be.
That about covers it.
No photographs from inside the exhibition of course, it wouldn't do to deprive Mr Hirst of the post card sales in the gift shop, so I've had to make do with some shots of Hymn which stands in front of the Tate staring towards St Paul's. This twenty foot, six ton, painted bronze statue explores another of Hirst's recurring themes, the anatomical figure.
This is art as a business, nothing new in that of course, it always has been. After all, artists have to make a living, they just do it in a different way to the majority of us. The great masters usually worked to commission and/or lived very comfortably under the patronage of the rich and powerful and lesser artists (in stature but not necessarily in skill and creativity) sell directly or through galleries. Of course, some are better businessmen than others. It is claimed that Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, but to be fair he did have other things on his mind.
Damien Hirst, however, has taken the art business to a whole new level. He has become more like the creative director of a major corporation than a working artist. In 2008 he took the decision to avoid the traditional route of selling his work through a gallery and presented 244 new works for auction by Sotheby's. The two day event took in excess of £111,000,000. A good couple of days for Mr Hirst then
Just as a matter of interest, here is a selection of the gift shop goodies.
Love of God T-shirt Adult - £46.00
Love of God T-shirtChild - £30.00
Love of God Pencil - £2.05
Spin Painted Skull (plastic) - £36,800.00
Skateboard Deck - £480.00
Deckchair - £310.00
Umbrella - £39.50
Charm Bracelet - £11,000.00
Cufflinks - £250.00
Wallpaper - between £205.00 and £675.00 per roll