Hirst painted the first of the series in 1986 while a student at Goldsmiths College in London. It is a drippy bunch of spots painted on board that has a graffiti feel and, according to some critics, is far more visceral, or at least more sincere, than the 1500+ variations that have been cranked out by Hirst and his assistants in the 25 years since then. Hirst is adored by some and criticized by others as an excessive, egotistical huckster.
Dan Fox of Frieze said of one of the New York exhibits:
It was like eating a vanilla ice-cream in a branch of Gap stocked with a particularly beige seasonal clothing range. You might think that ‘beige’ is the wrong choice of word to describe these works, especially given that Hirst has described himself as a colourist...And yet, seeing so many of them together in the same gallery spaces, ‘beige’ seemed to be the perfect description; together, these works were joyless and bland.
Ben Davis said, in "A Reluctant Defense of Damien Hirst's Spot Painting Spectacular":
Death, as everyone knows, is Hirst’s theme. Sometimes it is literal death, as in the pickled animals or the pills or the skull imagery. Sometimes, however, it is a more metaphorical death, the hollowing out of subjectivity. This is the case with the spin and the spot paintings. In all cases, the point is that something dead confronts you...Some I actually think are kind of good paintings, with a deadpan cool that I find appealing. But as a total project, the “Global Spot Show” experiment actually makes a kind of sense. Seeing the works in depth emphasizes that they are basically about individuality — a nearly annihilated individuality — sparking against the background of precise and merciless repetition.
Ultimately, art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So what do you think? Is it art...or just smart marketing?
From artnewsworldwide.com, huffingtonpost.com, blog.frieze.com and nytimes.com
|Spot Painting, 1986|
|Eucatropine Web, 2005|
|Zirconyl Chloride, 2008|
Some of Hirst's other controversial pieces include a shark suspended in formaldyhyde, a picture of pills and a diamond encrusted skull.
|The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991|
|Lullaby, The Seasons, 2002|
|Street artist Banksy's take on Hirst's work|