Damien Hirst at Gagosian Gallery

Installation view of Damien Hirst’s Theories, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings; courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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The Damien Hirst show at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea is obscene.  Not in the sense that my mother or your aunt Ethel would find it so.  What they know about Mr. Hirst they know third-hand, and who’s to say they’re worse off for it?  Theories, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings (the title of the exhibition) is obscene in terms of scale and expense.  The film director John Waters, when asked if his movies were obscene, replied that whatever they were, at least their budgets weren’t capable of feeding the population of a Third World country.  Obscenity, Mr. Waters insinuated, lay in squander and not in content.  So it is with Mr. Hirst’s art.

Of course, the pecuniary outlay for the exhibition is primarily the concern of the artist and his co-conspirator, Mr. Gagosian.  Nor should we judge works of art by tallying invoices for labor and materials.  But the spectacle dominating West 24th Street is so triumphantly cynical, so ostentatiously vacant, that it’s fruitless to consider it apart from its financing.  For what Mr. Hirst offers us is an anti-art so sterile, streamlined and corporate that is can only be called Shopping Mall Dada.  Such is the state of artistic innovation as we enter the 21st century.

© 2000 Mario Naves

Originally published in the November 20, 2000 edition of The New York Observer.

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