At last, Hirst admits that some of his art is 'silly and embarrassing'

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The Independent Online

There were always those who argued that the pickled sheep and carved cows that made Damien Hirst a household name were not exactly high art. But now the one-time enfant terrible of British art has joined his critics and admitted that some of his creations may have been somewhat "silly" and "embarrassing".

There were always those who argued that the pickled sheep and carved cows that made Damien Hirst a household name were not exactly high art. But now the one-time enfant terrible of British art has joined his critics and admitted that some of his creations may have been somewhat "silly" and "embarrassing".

Speaking at the opening of his latest exhibition at the Gagosian gallery in New York, Hirst, 39, said: "You do turn round after a few years and look at your stuff and you think it's embarrassing. Certainly everything you make is not a masterpiece."

His spin paintings - round works created by dropping paint onto a spinning canvas - were "a bit silly," he said. "The cut in half pig that moves like a bacon slicer I suppose I thought was a bit silly in retrospect."

But that does not, of course, mean he is any less certain of his stature in the pantheon of artistic greats. Admitting to the occasional moments of silliness comes only a few weeks after he told Modern Painters magazine: "There's a chair up there in art heaven with my name on, and I could go and sit next to Jackson Pollock and do nothing."

Then again these could just be the words of an artist who loves to turn expectations on their head. The entire Gagosian show, entitled The Elusive Truth, does exactly that. Critics were stunned to discover that the artist most famous for putting a dead shark in formaldehyde had spent the past few months painting realistic images based on photographs and postcards.

One series copied an anti-drugs advertisement showing the accelerated decline of a young female crack addict while other works showed hospital scenes, suicide bombers and his own works.

Even then, of course, the paintings were not exactly what they seemed. To further outrage, Hirst admitted that assistants did much of the actual painting while he added the final touches. "What I've been doing, which is probably a bit naughty, is finishing them," he said. "I don't like the idea that it has to be done by the artist, I think it's quite an old-fashioned thing. Architects don't build their own houses."

It does not appear to have deterred buyers, with the 29 works selling out for around $20m (£11m). Even prints signed by Hirst sell for around $20,000.

But he stands by his famed shark, which goes under the title The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living .

Made in 1991, it was recently sold by Charles Saatchi, the British collector, to an American buyer for $13m amid some reports that it was disintegrating. "I think the shark's obviously an important piece," he said. "I think it just needs a bit of love and attention."

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