Damien Hirst – artistically talentless but a showman and salesman of genius – has been asked to design (or “reimagine”) the statuette for the 2013 Brit Awards. (For readers who live a sheltered life, that’s the annual pop music awards of the British record industry.)
Before I sound off, I’m declaring my interest. I’ve just published a novel ridiculing Hirst and his world and of course I want everyone to read it. I think you’d like the jokes as well as the savagery.
Ever since the 1970s when I first saw an exhibition of dirty nappies reverentially displayed in the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, I’ve been incredulously watching how the art establishment embraced the self-evidently absurd notion that if a so-called artist says a turd is art, it’s art. (I’m not exaggerating. The likely winner of this year’s Turner Prize is, we’re told, displaying ‘a dystopian world where people become turds and turds become people’.) This led to the destruction of art education and the promotion of the Young British Artists (the YBAs) – self-promoters who spotted that to succeed you just had to shock. Hirst did maggots and smelly meat, Tracey Emin did dirt and stains, Martin Creed did lights switching on and off in an empty room and so on and on. Such people flourished, while original, creative and talented young artists – whose brushes the YBAs are not fit to clean – were ignored, derided and left starving in their garrets.
Hence my Killing the Emperors, a satire on the whole cynical, money-grubbing, sensationalist world of conceptual art, presided over by Sir Nicholas Serota of the Tate empire and the Turner Prize, who puts great paintings in storage to make room for the garbage his indoctrinated curators laud to the skies in laughable language that the brave, dissident Jackdaw magazine rightly calls “art bollocks”.
But back to the latest example of useful idiots bowing to fashion. David Joseph, industry supremo and Brits chairman, explained that Hirst "is truly one of the most important British artists ever, and his unique vision will make winning a 2013 Brit an even more special proposition".
The most recent shock-horror production from the artisans Hirst hires to do the work he’s incapable of doing (the poor chap can’t draw, paint or sculpt) is Verity, a 65 ft, 25 tonne statute of a hideous pregnant woman with her insides on display now dominating the hitherto inoffensive harbour town of Ilfracombe. She’s a larger version of Virgin Mother, which Hirst displayed in the Royal Academy courtyard in 2006. For good measure, Hirst’s equipped her with a sword and scales and trumpets her as “a modern-day allegory for truth and justice”.
Since no town council in its right mind would buy anything like this, Hirst has kindly lent it for twenty years. His objective is to bring visitors to the town, not least to his sea-front restaurant. Apparently he also has a vision of building there a large ‘eco-estate’ of expensive houses. He’s thoughtfully made Verity ten inches taller than Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North, so that’ll be a draw for day-trippers who like gigantism.
Whatever he produces for the Brit Awards will no doubt be hailed by Joseph and his gullible chums as a work of genius. The bad news, Mr Joseph, is that Hirst’s prices are tumbling as people begin to grasp that his work is repetitive, cynical, pointless and mostly extremely ugly. His reputation is diminishing steadily – if too slowly – but with a fair wind, in a decade or so the nakedness of him, most of his fellow conceptual artists and the whole rotten art establishment will be visible to everyone.
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Ruth Dudley Edwards