Get ready for Hirst-mania (again)

November 22 2011

Image of Get ready for Hirst-mania (again)

Picture: Damien Hirst and Science Ltd

Like the famous shark, I can't help meeting news of a Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate next year with a giant yawn. Predictably, there is already enough flam to fill a whole volume of 'Guffwatch', such as this from Tate Modern director, Chris Dercon:

They are super-familiar on one level but in a new context the work will be interesting on another level [...] There is a kinaesthetic aspect when you are in a room with these works, seeing your own reflection in the vitrines. It is as if you are stepping into a laboratory of ideas.

Expect plenty more of this. 

Star of the show will be Hirst's For the Love of God, the platinum skull encrusted with diamonds and human teeth. The Tate calls this Hirst's 'key work'. But by displaying this sculpture, are the Tate breaking some of their own rules on commenting on works that may be for sale?

It's a little known fact that Tate has a (frankly absurd) rule which strictly forbids members of its staff from commenting on works of art that are in any way on the market. So, for example, if you find a Turner under your bed, and want to sell it but need the Tate's view on whether it is in fact a Turner (the Tate being the world's centre of expertise on Turner), then you're a bit stuck. This has always struck me as odd, because almost every other gallery I know will happily share their expertise with anyone who asks, irrespective of whether you happen to be (gasp) a dealer.

But since some sources (such as The Art Newspaper) allege that the multi-million pound For the Love of God was never actually sold, and still belongs to Hirst, his agent and his dealer (and others), then aren't the Tate in danger of being seen to promote the work?

As Brian Sewell points out in The Independent:

What always happens after this kind of thing is an artist's prices jump by five or more per cent. A huge exhibition at Tate Modern is a mark of importance if not of quality. Those many museums which haven't got a representative sample of one of his many genres will have to investigate the possibility of buying. This show is an advert and he pays nothing.

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