Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Damien Hirst is the Elvis of the English art world, its ayatollah, deliverer and big-thinking entrepreneurial potty-mouthed prophet and front man. Hirst synthesizes punk, Pop Art, Jeff Koons, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon and Catholicism. He’s the working-class hero who as a 23-year-old art student at the University of London’s Goldsmiths college organized “Freeze,” an exhibition of his artwork and that of 15 school chums. Two decades in, the father of three sons, operator of six studios, boss of (he says) 160 employees, one of Britain’s wealthiest citizens, Hirst is back and blatant as ever. This week he opened a retrospective of more than 300 of his multitudinous, assistant-made “spot paintings.” As Hirst has said, “I always . . . treat [art] as an all-or-nothing situation. There’s no way I’m going to settle for half.” Hence the survey is mounted simultaneously worldwide at all 11 of Larry Gagosian’s galleries. For five weeks, the sun will never set on a Hirst spot. New York magazine, where this essay first appeared. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.