Damien who? Will Hirst stand the test of time?

Britain's most controversial living artist will be forgotten in 100 years, if the experts' predictions are to be believed. So who will endure? Andrew Johnson reports
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The Independent Culture

Damien Hirst may be, arguably, the most powerful and pricey player in the art world, holding the record – until this month at least – as the most expensive living artist at auction after his Lullaby Spring sold for more than £9.6m in the summer.

But his controversial creations, including sharks preserved in formaldehyde and a diamond-encrusted skull worth a reputed £50m, will not stand the test of time, if the opinions of many of the world's leading curators and critics are anything to go by.

Of more than 30 global art experts surveyed by the prestigious American magazine ARTnews to celebrate its 105th birthday, not a single one picked Hirst as an artist who would remain famous in the next century.

Nor were any of the British artists who have spent much of the past decade plastered across the British media on the list. Art lovers in 2112 will not, apparently, be flocking to see Tracey Emin, the Chapman Brothers, Sarah Lucas or Gilbert and George.

Instead, the museums of the future will be packing in the crowds with exhibitions of Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois and, believe it or not, Yoko Ono.

The artistic reputation of the woman who has spent much of her life being reviled by Beatles fans for splitting up the Fab Four has undergone a transformation in recent years. Ono, the widow of John Lennon, has in the great tradition of artists moved from outright mockery to being seen as a serious player with a host of awards in the past few years.

Ono "will be adored for her radically democratic art that defies and subverts formal categorisation", said Alexandra Munroe of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Dan Cameron of the Contemporary Arts Centre in New Orleans said that Ono "co-invented conceptual art".

Andy Warhol is the clear winner. Robert Storr, the dean of the Yale School of Art, who curated this year's Venice Biennale – where Emin represented Britain – said Warhol and John Cage "upset the applecart of certainties and beliefs that had driven art for a hundred years. Warhol took the mediating qualities of television, film and so on and examined how they filter out the intensity from content."

Joint top choice was the black American artist David Hammons, whose work, such as Spade with Chains, comments on the civil rights movement.

Lydia Yee, curator of the Barbican Art Gallery in London, said of Hammons: "His recent sculptures and objects continue to surprise and challenge viewers. Though future generations might not get all the art references, Hammons's work will speak to them profoundly.

Ms Yee also plumped for the French-born artist Bourgeois, still active at 95 and who currently has a retrospective at Tate Modern. "[Bourgeois] made a significant contribution to reshaping our understanding of 20th-century art and of abstraction," she said.

Bruce Nauman, another American, whose work includes video, photography and neon, was the third most popular choice.

A few British artists did make the list. Jan Hoet, artistic director of the MARTa Herford museum in Germany picked Francis Bacon "because he gave a new impulse to figuration".

Linda Nochlin, professor of modern art at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, said she hoped Sam Taylor-Wood and Rachel Whiteread would "endure". She added: "The former because her work will tell people what it was like to be alive in the early 21st century, the latter because her art speaks to a sense of endurance of common things."

The absence of Hirst, recently placed at number six on a list of the world's most powerful art figures, does not convince everyone that he will be irrelevant in 105 years' time, however.

Francis Outred, specialist in contemporary art at Sotheby's, said yesterday: "Damien keeps creating work that is different from before. He keeps creating icons – the skull was another icon to go with the shark. His work has had a pivotal role revitalising contemporary work around the world."

Top-scoring artists

Bruce Nauman, Raw materials, 2004

He 'created in a new way everything that we know'

Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999

At 95 she has produced an 'expansive' body of work

Yoko Ono, Yoko Ono's apple, 1966

Her work is undergoing a renaissance in recognition

Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954

The painter and printmaker is 'central to art history'

Jackson Pollock, No 5, 1948

No 5 sparked controversy after it was allegedly sold for $140m

Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993

One of the few British artists to make the list

Francis Bacon, Studies for figures at the base of a crucifixion, 1944

'A new impulse for figuration'

Andy Warhol, Lemon Marilyn, 1962

A 20th-century giant currently commanding huge prices

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