Why am I blogging about Damien Hirst if I find him so overrated? Hirst offers us a unique vantage point from which to examine the larger machine: the artworld itself. Rachel Campbell-Johnston, in this revealing article for the Times, wonders in print what I've wondered for ages and offers an explanation:
Now scroll up a bit and look at the photo I posted of Hirst with two works currently on show at The Wallace Collection. Do you find them dreadful? In my mind, that isn't the only question that matters. A lot of the art we "enjoy" when visiting a gallery or museum is dreadful. But Hirst's persona has taken on mythical proportions which obscure even some very successful yet poor artists who shall remain unnamed here (this post isn't about my value judgment on other artists). When you consider that he had a capsule collection for Levi's Jeans, has opened a restaurant, and designed Trek bikes for the Tour de France, you wonder whether his art really factors into the whole media shebang.
The paintings are dreadful. Think Francis Bacon meets Adrian Mole. So why are these works now hanging in the Wallace Collection? What are they doing in the home of such masters as Rembrandt or Poussin, Titian or Fragonard?The answer is simple: they are by Damien Hirst. And his is a name that curators must welcome.
My read on the whole situation is that it does, but marginally. How did I decide this? Well, I looked at those paintings up there and felt nothing, except a desire to make fun of his hipster glasses and protruding belly instead of look at the paintings. Maybe he should have left these to his studio assistants, too, and saved himself the time. Or maybe I've got him all wrong, and he is indeed an example of the artist as genius.