They have been described by his most irascible critics as "junk food", created by anonymous helpers and easy to reproduce. Yesterday, a bunch of primary school children had their own go at making Damien Hirst artworks.
Specifically, the children were trying their hands at spin painting, in the style of the multimillionaire artist, aided by assistants from his company, Science Ltd. So if they can do it, why would anyone pay £668,450 for one of Hirst's?
Alas, it turns out spin-painting is not as easy it looks, as I soon discovered. To make the works, a pre-cut piece of cartridge paper is pinned down on to a spinning platform and brushed with water. Then you splodge on the paint.
I chose to use a skull-shaped piece of paper (a popular, if morbid choice), but whacked on some pink and gold paint so as not to create something resembling Voldemort's Dark Mark of Harry Potter fame.
As the platform spun around, Hirst's assistant seemed to suggest that the event at Covent Garden in central London, in aid of Camila Batmanghelidjh's charity Kids Company, was one of the more pleasurable tasks the Science Ltd team has been assigned – better, certainly, than sourcing thousands of dead flies for one of the artist's more unsightly creations.
Despite keeping to Hirst's advice – "If in doubt, stop. If you think it might be finished, stop" – my effort looked pretty dreadful. As did, though it seems mean to say it, the children's enthusiastic contributions. Even Hirst himself seemed to be having an off-day – his own heart-shaped design left a lot to be desired – but his piece is nevertheless likely to fetch a princely sum when it is auctioned at a gala Kids Company dinner in October.
The event was Hirst's first public appearance since it emerged that Maia Norman, his partner and mother of his three children, had left him for a former army officer, Timothy Spicer.
As a result, any questions directed towards the artist were met with a scream of "no press!" from his minders. But with many newspapers fixated on Hirst's love life, Ms Batmanghelidjh was more forthcoming about a lesser-known side of the artist. "He has supported us and never tried to announce it, but actually he has given £2m over the years," she said. "Not once did he ask for credits or acknowledgement."