Hirst snubs `fat, stuffy, pompous' Royal Academy

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Damien Hirst, the biggest name among the current crop of young British artists, has turned down the chance of election to the Royal Academy, labelling it "a big, fat, stuffy, old, pompous institution".

He added, in only slightly more measured terms, his fear that if there was a revolution, membership of the Royal Academy would hasten his being put up against the wall.

The attack on the art establishment by the 33-year-old purveyor of pickled sheep could not be more ill timed for the Royal Academy. Next week it opens its first exhibition of young British artists. Entitled Sensation, the exhibition taken from the Saatchi collection will feature five of Hirst's installations, including pickled sheep and sharks.

The Royal Academy had hoped the exhibition would rejuvenate its image, which had taken a knock in the spring when Hirst's fellow conceptualist Rachel Whiteread was elected to the RA but also turned down the honour.

Yesterday Hirst stuck the knife in further. He said: "I was approached by Norman Rosenthal, the RA's exhibitions secretary, about becoming an RA. But I did not want my name to go forward. I'm just slipping out of being an enfant terrible. I'm more interested in art then being a member, plus if there's a revolution they come and kill you, don't they?

"The idea is ridiculous. I got Cs in all my O-levels and A-levels [in fact he got an E for Art O-level] and only just got my cycling proficiency. Its the last thing I want."

A Royal Academy spokeswoman declined to comment.

Hirst was yesterday launching his first book I Want to Spend the Rest of my Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now. It contains pop-up butterflies, interviews, press cuttings and a John and Yoko style picture of Hirst and his wife Maya with their private parts covered up at the insistence of the authorities in China where the book was produced.

In true Hirst style the book has replaceable stickers of the couple's private parts that readers in the west can stick back on.

Publisher Edward Booth-Clibborn defended the pounds 60 price, saying: "Students will spend that much on a pair of sneakers."

Hirst himself added: "Buying this is like having Damien Hirst for yourself."