NEW YORK -By Janet Ellen – As an avid art aficianado and the daughter of a father who prides himself on being a prominent art collector as well as a friend of Damien Hirst not to mention, a collector of his work – I shall take a deep breath before I get on with the business of continuing to write this article.
If I had not stumbled upon Friday’s article on BBC World News by Rebecca Jones, entitled ” Spot The Difference – Damien Hirst’s New Vision” – I would most certainly not be writing this opinion piece. But I felt truly compelled after I ran across the very surprising part in the interview with Hirst when he so non-chalantly mentions that he sees nothing wrong with the fact that his work is produced by other people and he simply acts as an ‘architect of sorts’ for the work.
Hirst, as one of the most famous artists of our time, poses a very simple question in the article: “Everybody goes, did you actually paint them? I don’t know why that’s important in art.” referring to whether the artist actually creates the work himself or allows others to be directed to do so.
The prominent British artist adds:”If you live in a Frank Gehry house, it’s not important to you that he laid the bricks.” In all fairness, a painting and an architectural original are like comparing apples and oranges. We would assume Gehry would have carefully designed the house so his actual laying down of the foundation – that would be done by an expert not the architect. But a painting is a realization of an artist’s revelation – not to be confused with a house design.
Painting is a whole lot more personal, it’s how an artist appears in the world, so without the artist imprint – the painting loses its original value.
My first question is this: If you as the famous artist are not doing the work then it most certainly is not your work to call your own. The drips and drizzles of paint that he mentions just happening on the canvas are not his because they belong to some wannabes who are diligently daring to replicate something the artist should have and could have completed on his own as Hirst himself readily admits in his interview.
How can one value a painting at its true worth, knowing that it was never created, never touched or had any angst attached to it since the artist never put his imprint on it, ever. Then why should anyone buy it at full price? Just because they are told it’s a Damien Hirst ‘original’?
I don’t think so.
All the artists that I admired, some now deceased like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Georgia O’Keefe and some still living like Kara Walker – all of these geniuses did and still do their own work. They did not farm out the work because they thought it was somehow beneath them to put their emotions, soul and hard work into a piece.
What has art come to, if someone as prominent as Damien Hirst decides to let someone else execute his idea on canvas? Have we stooped so low as to dumb down the art world to the point of bragging that ‘I’m a brand so I don’t need to be present for the work.’
I seriously hope not.
Consider this, is the signature on the bottom right hand corner or back side of your latest contemporary art find, authentic? Or must we wonder whether the artist really signed that piece as well or did he have some obscure assistant sign it for him?
If I were a famous artist, what I know for sure is that I would have the respect and decency to make sure I did my own work all with my own hands even if they were calloused and worn.
Because at the end of the day, I could truly utter – “this is my work and no one else had a hand in it.”