Colour of money: Damien Hirst catalogue divides art dealers
The artist is to finally disclose how many spot paintings he’s made – and not everyone’s happy
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Friday 05 April 2013
Damien Hirst’s spot paintings have been reviled and praised in equal measure. While many are left baffled by the huge sums they command, one mystery is set to be cleared up: quite how many are out there.
The artist at the forefront of the Young British Artists (YBAs) has produced spot paintings for 27 years and some wild estimates had suggested the number of works may be as high as 7,000. There are, in fact, about 1,400.
A catalogue of the spot paintings is to be published by Other Criteria, Hirst’s publishing company, which will reveal the exact amount in existence when it is released in the next few months.
Jason Beard, the director of Other Criteria, told The Art Newspaper that “every single spot painting made will be listed” in the catalogue.
The news polarised dealers in the art world. One said the catalogue would set collectors’ minds at rest, knowing the exact number. Another argued showing that many works would highlight the manufacturing process.
One art industry insider was particularly keen to see the catalogue, telling the paper it would highlight when Hirst “realised what a money spinning machine he had created” and increased production of the works.
Hirst has admitted openly that of the 1,400 works on the market he has left all but 25 to his assistants. He has said in interview that despite the use of assistants “every single spot painting contains my eye, my hand and my heart”.
The paintings, comprising rows of different coloured dots, come in different shapes and sizes, and are named after pharmaceutical drugs. The largest is 118 inches by 478 inches while the smallest is 1 inch by half an inch. One painting includes 25,781 dots.
The most expensive spot painting sold so far was in February 2008 at Phillips de Pury, which sold a 204 by 84 inch work for $3.4m.
They continue to sell and inspire such devotion that a chance to win signed spot prints saw 128 fans and collectors travel to 11 different Gagosian galleries around the world during a recent exhibition.
The Gagosian show met with as much criticism as praise. “These spots reflect nothing about how we live, see, or think, they’re just some weird meme for the impossibly rich that nobody knows how to stop,” Will Brand wrote on art blog Art F City.
Dan Fox, on the Frieze blog, described the experience of Hirst’s show as like “eating a vanilla ice-cream in a branch of Gap stocked with a particularly beige seasonal clothing range”.
Hirst himself has put it down to his “phenomenal love of colour” saying: “It was just a way of pinning down the joy of colour.”
The artist has said he wanted them to be an “endless series” and “sort of infinite”. He told an interviewer in December that he was working on two paintings, one with a million dots and one with two million adding they would “take years to make”.
Before the major survey of Hirst’s works at Tate Modern last year, which include a series of the spot paintings, former public gallery chief Julian Spalding, predicted the “con art” bubble was set to collapse in his book Con Art – Why You Ought to Sell Your Damien Hirsts While You Can.
Hirst himself has an estimated fortune of £350m but his work has suffered in the past year. Artnet figures showed work sold during 2005 to 2008 had resold for 30 per cent less than the original price.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 2 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
- 4 Lauren Goodger sex tape: Reality star calls for tougher laws on revenge porn after intimate video leaks online
- 5 The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral backlash from US parenting groups
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
50 best running songs: From Avicii and Pharrell Williams to the classic 'Eye of the Tiger'
Doctor Who series 8: Watch Peter Capaldi in new ‘Listen!’ teaser trailer
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia