Damien Hirst Goes Down

Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple, El Greco, circa 1600, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

An article from yesterday’s Independent of London on the great sell off of Damien Hirst’s work. Interestingly the collapsing  Ponzi scheme signaled by  Gagosian putting up Hirst’s work in 11 of his galleries worldwide fails to be mentioned. I noted at the time that putting Hirst’s work up in so many galleries seemed like a desperation move. Apparently, it didn’t work out.  :


A couple things of note from the article.

We’re informed that many of Hirst’s pieces at his 2008 sale bypassing traditional dealers were bought by Middle Eastern, Indian, and Russian collectors as “recession-proof” investments. Apparently collectors from these countries are yet to wise up to the fact that the upper precincts of the art world are little more than  rigged insider trading schemes.

Georgina Adam, “an art market specialist,” tells us that Hirst has been a fabricator of luxury goods for a long time now.” She doesn’t mention that the same label fits most of the art that galleries like Gagosian sell. Dead-enders. Art about nothing that says nothing. High fashion. Devoid of feeling about life or the real world that collectors who can afford this work are busily destroying.

I  wish that these art investment counselors and “specialists” had their own TV show like Jim Cramer’s Mad Money. But then again, the name of the game in the art world is to pretend that art isn’t about money. It’s about the higher civilized values, as if there’s anything at present that one might consider as constituting a civilization.

“According to art market rumors, Hirst’s dealers have regularly stepped in to bid up the value of his work,…. ” In the old days this would have been known as auction rigging. But in today’s art world, pure fraud is just the way they do business..

“Concerns are frequently aired over exactly how much money actually changed hands for his most expensive creation For the Love of God–a platinum-plated, diamond-encrusted skull–which boasted a 50 million pound price tag. The skull was purchased by a consortium of investors led by Hirst.”

Nice of Hirst to put an exclamation point to the fraud by leading his consortium of investors in buying back his own work at auction.

“Works by Hirst produced in his most lucrative period between 2005 and…2008 have resold for nearly 30 percent less than their original purchase price.”

This kind of erratic behavior by reliable art stocks has got to have a lot of investors knitting their brows,  not to mention the recent collapse of the venerable Knoedler Gallery, which went bankrupt after being caught selling obvious forgeries to gullible art collectors.

Who can these poor collectors trust these days?

Maybe Julian Spalding, who called the Hirst collapse in advance.


I particularly liked the line where Spalding says: “He’s not an artist. What separates Michelangelo from Hirst is that Michelangelo was an artist and Hirst isn’t.”

I suspect Mr. Spalding to have been reading TrueOutsider, as it’s an obvious lift of my Phantom of the Opera statement from back in December. But, as always, I’m quite happy to go uncredited. Just so long as the word gets out.:


About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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3 Responses to Damien Hirst Goes Down

  1. MFN says:

    Great piece!

  2. So interesting… Thanks trueoutsider.

  3. trueoutsider says:

    Thanks, MFN and MK. I particularly like Mr. Spalding speaking up. At least someone in a position to say something finally has. The hack critic for the Guardian, Jonathan Jones, raved non-stop about Hirst’s genius when the Tate Gallery put his miserable retrospective on display. This shows, to me, the clear collusion between the big money dealers, the press, the artists themselves and the Museums at this point.

    I completely agree with Spalding’s point about Conceptual Art being Con Art. Conceptual Art in it’s entirety is a half-assed footnote to Duchamp’s declaration that painters are dumb and his stated ambition to put art at the service of the mind. Well, one need do no more than pick up a survey of conceptual art to see that what’s happened is that art has been put at the service of the mindless. And to Duchamp’s thorough discredit in my book, he never had the balls to indicate any of this in public. After a close reading of Duchamp’s interviews not so long ago I’ve come to see Duchamp as a charlatan himself. What struck me was his profession of purity by feigning ignorance of money transactions concerning art. The man made a comfortable living as a private art dealer and adviser, and so his claim amounts to dishonesty. Duchamp had a thorough-going knowledge and interest in art and money. It would be like Bernard Berenson claiming to have no idea about money and art.

    Duchamp was an anti-artist to the core and a profoundly destructive force. Small wonder that while almost all the European artists who migrated to America to escape Hitler returned after his defeat, Duchamp found America so much to his liking that he fit right in here. Americans are hustlers. They love the hustlers and charlatans.

    Whereas I view Duchamp’s early work as having a certain integrity, I view the latter half of his life and work as a sham. The rebel pose is thoroughly unconvincing when you’re nestled in the bosom of the very art institutions and monied class that you insist your work is challenging and opposed to… Marcel Duchamp, brought to you through the combined corporate interests of the Rockefeller Foundation, Exxon/Mobil and Philip Morris. Rimbaud’s work has integrity for the same reasons that Duchamp’s lacks any whatsoever. Rimbaud said what he had to say, as did so many of the various rebels of the late 19th century, and then quit the scene. Duchamp hung around like a washed up actor pontificating and ingratiating himself to the art establishment that the rebels like Rimbaud, Jarry, Lautreaumont had nothing but contempt for. For Duchamp to claim issue from these men lacks any credibility.

    This is something like the great support by liberals for Barack Obama because he talks liberal progressivism while, in fact, behaving like a corporate war criminal. Duchamp similarly talks the radical talk and then is a trumped up bourgeoise hanger on to art world money.

    In the interviews with Pierre Cabanne Duchamp is even whining that Breton never called to see him. I can well imagine why. Breton, whatever his failings, was a man of integrity and in serious opposition to the status quo. Duchamp’s feigned radicalism falls apart as you hear him giving the litany of all his “brilliant” put ons… that became tiresomely predictable and meaningless. Once you declare art dead, spinning on about how you never repeat yourself is more than a little bit hypocritical particularly as you flit about with the rest of the Art Crowd playing the eminence grise. Narcissistic egotism is a poor substitute for genuine artmaking. The same occurs with art philosophers like Baudrillard… Playing Alfred Jarry when all you’re doing is publishing academic treatises and hitting the art lecture circuit becomes threadbare at a certain point. Talk, talk, talk… and more talk…. What do any of these people actually make that’s a contribution to the cause of art?

    This is the central fraud of all so-called “conceptual artists”…. their ballyooed claims to want to make art disappear or take it out of the museums and put it back in the real world… as they clamber all over one another to find their way into as many gallery exhibitions and museum shows that will host them. The only place that would host that kind of rubbish are galleries and museums. There’s nothing remotely worth thinking about in relation to any of it. But the sycophants/sales force known as “critics” can generate oceans of gibberish justifying its deep meaning by spinning gushing hyperbole for the same damn installation of rubbish that if we’ve seen it once we’ve seen it tens of thousands of times. The less the work has to say, take Warhol for instance, the more that critics and art historians can blather on endlessly about all of its deep implications.

    Duchampian nihilism or anti-art is perfectly suited for the kind of charlatanism that is rife in the other brand of Con Art… Contemporary Art. Cynicism and puerile “ideas”, “strategies”, and other lame gimmicks abound. The name of the game is simply money. Unlike Spalding I don’t see the entire ponzi scheme collapsing imminently.

    Spalding’s book cover features a play on Hirst’s pickled sheep. All you have to do is look at MoMA’s and the Met’s recent fight over the abominable Rauschenberg stuffed goat to understand what is being indicated. That a hokey piece of kitsch junk has passed and still passes as great art says everything that needs to be said about the dismal nothingness that American art turned into long ago. When given the chance to shine, we instead became Barnum and Bailey bringing in the rubes. America thinks that money is the only indicator of artistic value and so whatever costs the most money is the greatest art. It’s as pathetic a value system as has ever existed.

    Of course, all of Rauschenberg’s work depends on the facile and empty Duchampian notion that gathering up whatever detritus one finds and putting it in a gallery makes it art because the artist says it is. Fatuous egotism isn’t art… it’s fatuous egotism, perfectly mirroring the fatuous egotism at the heart of the entire American project of world cultural domination that began with the express help of the CIA, State Department and Rockefeller-owned MoMA back in the 50s. The reason that a mindless, posturing bore like Rauschenberg, along with his pals Warhol and Johns became the capstones of America’s disgraceful tenure as arbiter of what is and isn’t art is not that they were challenging the definition of art. It was because they were destroying art altogether. Substituting their narcissistic egotism for the kind of deep humility that being a serious artist requires. The first form of humility is recognizing the greatness of the art of the past, not taking the posture that you’re doing something important by drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Duchamp’s act of infantile narcissistic aggression has become an epidemic in the hands of American hustlers and charlatans. By “democratizing” art all we’ve done is make it so mediocre that a 2nd year art student can easily create the caliber of so-called high art that shrouds museums and galleries alike.

    Of course as the American empire collapses all of the rubbish will go back to the rubbish bin from which it initially issued. Miles of silkscreened newspaper pages in designer colors will be viewed as miles of silkscreened newspaper pages in designer colors once the money and hype that support it collapse. Andy Warhol’s dictum that art is what sells is the opposite of the truth. Take van Gogh or late Goya, Turner, Rembrandt and countless others. Art, in those cases, were what didn’t sell. In my experience it’s been the case that art doesn’t sell. What sells are trendy consumer products…. Unless one wants to consider Fifty Shades of Grey great literature. Fifty Shades of Grey would be the best term I could think of to apply to the entire Jasper Johns project. Fifty Million Shades of Grey would be what passes for Contemporary Art.
    Not Art imitating Life… but Art imitating Death. The death of a culture.. from stagnation to decline to decay.

    I assume I’ll live to see the day it all collapses, but I might also be living to see the day when our coastal cities are largely inundated with water, like present-day Venice. But whereas Venice has it’s immortal art frescoes all NYC will have are it’s monumental rusted junk sculptures and silkscreened factory detritus. I tend to think, that as in all entropic situations, that it will go out with more of a whimper than a bang.

    Incidentally, Duchamp in the Cabanne interviews called all the art made through the support of the WPA a lot of “rubbish.” What we have now is art turned on its head. I consider the WPA years some of the finest work produced by American artists… from Bishop to Hopper, the Soyers, Marsh, Shahn, Gorky, de Kooning, Still, Pollock… myriad worthwhile artists and art all thrown down the memory hole all in support of the mindless Duchampian idiocy that is the real rubbish.

    Thus spake True Outsider.

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