Entertainment behind the scenes
Dark days for Damien Hirst
Critics have united in their condemnation of British artist Damien Hirst’s latest works – a series of paintings that are on show at the Wallace Collection in London.
At times it seems the 44-year-old, famous for his pickled animals, pill cabinets and spot paintings, can do no wrong. Just over a year ago he made 111 million pounds at a sale of new works, confirming his status as the most sought-after living artist.
His work has always divided critics and the public alike. What is unusual about the reaction to his new paintings is that opinion against him is near-unanimous. Rachel Campbell-Johnston of the Times sums up the mood succinctly with the words: “The paintings are dreadful. Think Francis Bacon meets Adrian Mole.”
Hirst says he painted the works – many of which which feature images of white skulls on dark blue-black backgrounds – himself, unlike his spot paintings, which are produced by others in his studio. So there is a sense among detractors that he has been found out as someone whose artistic technique is lacking.
And to make it worst, Hirst fell to 48th place in ArtReview’s annual list of the art world’s most powerful figures from top spot a year ago, although his freefall was largely explained by his absence from the limelight for the past 12 months.
The immediate impact of the backlash is tempered by the fact that most of the new paintings have already been bought, by Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk. But there is a sense that the Hirst brand, arguably contemporary art’s most successful in recent years, has lost some of its lustre.