Damien Hirst, whose epithets as much as his work, sum up the vacuous heart of the modern age, is curating an exhibition on Hoyland who, much in line Hirst’s predilections for his work, is dead.
Death stalks the contemporary imagination perhaps because life in the West gives so much. What celebrities like Hirst dislike about being dead is their complete inability to dictate the conversation Having fallen upon the bones of Duchamp’s skeletal arguments against the narrow view of what art is, and blowing it open with ‘art is what the artists says it is’, Hirst and many others have made fortunes being what art is.
They are of course wrong because their output will die when they do, unlike artists who become part of the cultural heritage of the entire nation. Because, and this is the vital point, all art is a communication and there is good conversation and boring conversation. Why is Hirst boring? Why is Bourgeois boring? Why is Koons boring? Because it is all about them, endlessly going on about how they are ‘artists’. How important they are, how famous, how rich. Its behind every article journalists write about them.
If they were doing the same stuff they are now but were as poor as everyone’s modern idol Van Gogh, they would sell about as much as he did. They would be written about as much as he was when alive. Van Gogh beggars them all, but he was useless at self-promotion. They, however, are brilliant at aligning themselves with his legacy, the artist par excellence.
Find a spotlight and they will be in it. Charging up the batteries of celebrity and talking to the rich collectors and art students who were long ago sold down the river studying for years to spend the rest of their lives as hobbyists.
Contemporary art has become a series of definitions of people. The ‘bad boy’ of ‘Brit Art’. It has lost its way. The contemporary art world has been tacked onto the history of art like a poorly executed repair job. Celebrity and controversy cannot replace skill. Nor reams of self promotion, one honest thought about the human condition that will resonate down the ages.
These rag doll ‘creatives’ stuffed with self-importance are coming apart at the seams. They are the hollow heart of contemporary art and the sooner they are dead and buried the sooner we can assign their output to the same graves. The only reason for keeping any of it is an an object lesson in what gets made when a whole civilisation loses its way and become intellectually incoherent.
No one chooses to be an artist. It is a way of being from birth. No artist needs to go to art school. While they may concentrate upon a few media none will every assign any other medium to being dead. For ultimately the real deal of an artist, even when dealing with death, will be all about life.
In the contemporary art worlds money is doing all the talking, which is why millions of people are no longer listening. Just as artists talked within their own narrow understanding of the Academies and left the avant garde to grow outside so now the world of self-serving millionaire artists talking to managers of investment portfolios has allowed art to flourish outside the auction houses and major galleries.
Koons and the YBA and the rest of them are finished. Their money will float them on the sea of publicity but they are the emblem of the broken society that has given us Donald Trump and an endless procession of political liars.
Artists cannot afford to lie to themselves or believe in the hype that surrounds them. Once they do their ego takes over and ego kills the artist stone dead.
Daniel Nanavati, UK Editor
Volume 31 number 1, September / October 2016 p 9