A free-market response to a truly dotty artist

A better way to destroy Damien Hirst

3 minute read
$100,000 at Gagosian, or $7 at Wal-Mart?
$100,000 at Gagosian, or $7 at Wal-Mart?
America's leading art critics have been much exercised lately over the "spot" paintings of Damien Hirst, currently on view at all the Gagosian Galleries in New York (three locations), London (two), Athens, Geneva, Rome, Paris, Hong Kong and Beverly Hills.

Hirst, AKA Britain's bad boy of art, is the artist a civilization-defending critic loves to hate. He sees contemporary art as a game, and, as the New Yorker art critic Peter Schejldahl says, he plays it to win. Hirst's antics in the name of art defy all propriety, sense, taste, etc., yet he earns fabulous sums for himself and his dealer. He succeeds at marketing himself to fabulously rich one percenters by following Martin Luther's dictum: "God gives money only to foolish people, to whom he gives little else."

Gagosian, Hirst and their customers care little what art critics say about this art. These clever folks delight instead in their ability to manipulate the art market. (If a fan manages to visit all 11 Gagosian galleries within five weeks, he'll "achieve" a genuine limited edition spot print, signed by Hirst!) The Art Newspaper, a willing manipulatee, is adding some publicity fuel to this marketing fire by sending Christina Ruiz, one of its editors, to view and report on the 331 spot paintings at all 11 locations.

Buy this sweater

Clearly, you need a one per center's budget to afford the time and money for such an escapade. Ruiz claims that one person's estimated expenses to all locations, including airfare and hotel expenses, will exceed $100,000. Ruiz says she'll economize by staying with friends in several of the locations. Further, she will report on her adventures via a blog in which other trendy spotters can weigh in with their own experiences on Facebook and Twitter. Call it the Internet for the Marie Antoinette set.

Some commoners may seethe with envy. But before you set up a guillotine, may I suggest a free-market solution to this display of affluent foolishness?

Given the overwhelming numbers of the 99%, we could actually devalue this art by banalizing it. We could out-Warhol Warhol by collectively embracing Hirst's world of dots rather than eschewing it.

Middle-class matrons, for example, could buy this $89 dot sweater and wear it all the time. Mothers could buy these $28 sheets and this $24 diaper bag. Kids can do their part by wearing this T-shirt ($7 at Wal-Mart).

Remember Seurat

Students, the jobless, the working poor and thrifty folk could dot-paint their own T-shirts, sheets, curtains, whatever. Graffiti artists could spray-dot their way across the landscape (only on authorized spaces for this project!). Businesses could donate billboard space or paint city buses with dots.

Maybe the new Barnes Museum on the Parkway would like to sponsor a totally dotty project to celebrate its opening this May. Weren't Georges Seurat and Paul Signac so totally into dots?

If enough people got with this program, the bad boy of art could become a good boy before you know it. The spot paintings would be devalued by becoming common. Hirst and Gagosian, having thrived by manipulating the art market, would be chastened by it. To be sure, they may collaborate again on some project. But next time, maybe, the object will be something worth describing as "art."♦

To read responses, click here and here.

What, When, Where

Damien Hirst’s spot paintings: The Gagosian challenge.

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