Finally someone – as in someone a little more credible than me – said it:
“[Damien]Hirst’s 1991 suspended tiger shark, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, is, [Robert] Hughes judges, a ‘tacky commodity’, even though collector Charles Saatchi sold it for £8m in 2004. ‘It is a clever piece of marketing, but as a piece of art it is absurd,’ Hughes says. The common defence is that Hirst’s work mirrors and subverts modern decadence: ‘Not so. It is decadence,’ says Hughes.”
Someone give Robert Hughes a big hug. Hughes also called The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living “the world’s most over-rated marine organism”. Hirst has responded by calling Hughes a “Luddite” and saying “He probably cried when Queen Victoria died.” Yeah, well, Hirst would probably have sliced her up and put her in formaldehyde.
With serendipitous timing, this piece in the Guardian about Hughes’ forthcoming programme The Mona Lisa Curse comes hot on the heels of the first ever exhibition of Damien Hirst’s works in New Delhi last month. This was a preview of an auction Damien Hirst is going to have later this month. A few of his works from this set were presented by Sotheby’s. It seems Sotheby’s decided it would not risk the potential ire of Hindu fanatics (who seem to forget that if our myths are anything to go by, Hindoos were chomping on tender steak every time there was a sacrificed calf at a temple) so only Spin Cycle paintings were shown. The chopped up animals with their multi-million dollar price tags went to the Hamptons. Maybe that’s why our general tendency to herd towards anything foreign took a backseat and instead, people were suspicious about why Hirst had chosen to show in India. The artist didn’t come down here, however, and neither did he give interviews, presumably because he was busy getting himself ready to be on the cover of TIME. According to the Times,
“ ‘Did international auction house Sotheby’s bring famed contemporary artist Damien Hirst’s works to India because a ‘mountain’ of unsold works lies in wait in London?’ one of India’s leading news agencies asked.”
In the old India, we’d have felt vaguely grateful to be considered posh enough to preview Damien Hirst. The new India, puffed with confidence arising from statistics of our projected economic growth and supposedly enormous buying power, decided that Hirst and Sotheby’s needs our cash. Who cares if India is among the more miniscule art markets on the world? I love India shining. Because whether or not Hirst is offloading, I’m very certain he didn’t send a few tame paintings to India for any high-minded aims like spreading the love of art. Sotheby’s would have been importing formaldehyde by the ton if that were true. The corporation that is Damien Hirst is looking for new customers, just as all corporations do. While in case of Coke the product costs about Rs. 20 (price of imported Diet Coke can, if you please), the cheapest of Hirst’s works has a starting bid of 30,000 pounds.