Letters: Hirst is no 'great', nor a craftsman

Related Topics

Michael Petry misses the point when he counters David Hockney's criticism of Damien Hirst by citing other artists who used assistants to help create their works ("Assistants were always used by the greats", 3 January).

In stating that Hirst's use of assistants is "a little insulting to craftsmen, skilful craftsmen", Hockney is clearly implying that, unlike the artists cited by Petry (Bernini, Rembrandt and Reynolds), Hirst uses assistants because anybody could execute the work in question.

As your report indicates, by his own admission, Hirst created a production line for the completion of his spot paintings once he had sold one, because his assistants were "better at it than me" and he got "bored" with the exercise.

This could almost be Henry Ford talking about the manufacture of cars. It is certainly not the voice of a skilful craftsman who lights up a gallery with his technique.

Petry argues that assistants were always used by the greats. The problem is that Damian Hirst is not one of the greats, just someone who has the knack of making money from gimmickry by employing Fordist production methods.

Professor David Head


I feel your arts correspondents Nick Clark and Michael Petry have completely missed the point in their defence of Damien Hirst over Hockney's justified comments about assistants.

It is accepted that, throughout history, artists have utilised the talents of assistants to carry out the more laborious and repetitive procedures involved in the execution of large or repetitious pieces, but Hockney's point was to stress the unique talent of the craftsmanship element which the artist brings to the work of art in its totality.

Clark and Petry cite Michelangelo, Duchamp, Warhol and Gormley as examples but fail to mention that all these artists proved that they were consummate masters of craftsmanship, unlike Hirst who has yet to reveal any talent in this regard, something that should be regarded as a pre-requisite for every visual artist.

Hirst is typical of a great number of conceptual and multimedia artists, outrage and shock winning the rewards the fame academy affords with little or no intelligent creativity. These artists and the critics who defend them find that it is far easier to wear and applaud the Emperor's clothes than to expose profound inadequacies.

Bill Laslett

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Non-white gangs of youths can be violent racists, too

I note the different treatment accorded by the Metropolitan Police, the judiciary and the media to the murders by teenage "racist gangs" of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993, and 15-year-old Richard Everitt in Somers Town, Camden, north London, in August 1994. Stephen was of West Indian origin; Richard was white.

Both were attacked by gangs of teenagers who, before and after the murders, expressed violent racial hatred. Stephen was murdered by a white gang. Richard was murdered by a Bengali gang. Neither victim behaved in any way to provoke.

Massive media publicity, sustained over nearly two decades, followed Stephen's case. There was a visit by the Home Secretary to the murder scene where a public monument was erected. A public judicial inquiry was conducted in which the police were denounced as "institutionally racist". Money was found to fund a private prosecution, which failed.

Gary Dobson and David Norris have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge called for Stephen's other attackers to be brought to justice because they were engaged in a "joint exercise".

Stephen Lawrence has become a household name. Richard Everitt's name was never in the headlines for long enough for the public mind to retain it. Eleven Bengali youths (one man was aged 20) were arrested over Richard's killing. Only two came to trial, Badrul Miah and Showkat Akbar. There were no calls for all the attackers to be prosecuted on a "joint enterprise" basis.

Akbar was found guilty of violent disorder and sentenced to three years, of which he served 18 months. Miah was sentenced to life but let out on licence after 11 years, despite the trial judge describing it as an "unprovoked racist attack".

There was no visit by the Home Secretary to Somers Town, no public monument; no public judicial inquiry; and virtual silence from the local MP, Frank Dobson.

The Stephen Lawrence verdict should not be taken as proof that the white working-class of our country is getting justice from the police, the judiciary and the media, because they all subscribe to the notion that only white people and never non-white minorities commit race-hate offences.

Martin Webster

London SW15

The media have been full of stories about how the Metropolitan Police has changed since Stephen Lawrence was murdered. One of the conclusions of the Macpherson report was that there had been failings in senior officers' leadership.

It was therefore ironic that the comments on the guilty verdicts were made by Acting Deputy Commissioner Cressida Dick. She was in charge of the operation which led to an entirely innocent man being gunned down in front of horrified Tube passengers.

Most people would accept such a horror to be a failure of leadership on a grand scale. But she has never admitted accountability, and has only been promoted and honoured since.

Christopher Anton


The case of Stephen Lawrence has been given enormous coverage. The question arises about when similar coverage will be given into the horrific murder of Police Constable Keith Blakelock during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham, and when in that case will the police, the CPS and forensic service mount a similar, intensive investigation.

This murder appears to have been forgotten, and the media should at least give some coverage.

P Morrison

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Michael Rolfe (letters, 5 January), uses his experience at a carol service to suggest that racism is still prevalent in England. I do not discount the problems that still exist, but I would suggest that a church is not the most representative arena to conduct research.

Whatever David Cameron might choose to believe, churches are becoming increasingly marginalised in modern secular Britain. Despite the positive messages of love and forgiveness that Christianity purports to represent, many of the religion's followers are, in my experience, prone to be bigots.

Perhaps Mr Rolfe should have visited the nearest public house to the London church he attended. If he had, he might have found a far more representative snapshot of local society.

Tim Matthews

Luton, Bedfordshire

Sadly, although one would like to think that "this was the case that put an end to all denial about racism in the UK", this is far from the truth. For example, in Liverpool, a city with the oldest-established black population in England (more than 400 years), out of its 6,031 council employees, 137 are black, with none of them in the top (PO10+) grades.

The Lawrence family had to wait 18 years for justice. How much longer does Liverpool's black population need to wait for recognition, access and inclusion in the city's corridors of power?

Professor Bill Boyle

School of Education, University of Manchester

It is tragically ironic that we have a race storm in the media the day after the convictions for the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

As a white Anglo-Italian, my first reaction to Diane Abbott's comments on Twitter on Thursday to the effect that white people seek to divide and conquer black people was one of offended and affronted distaste. But, looking at the root of these comments, I have always found the lazy and stereotypical shorthand of "community leaders", when used exclusively for people of non-Anglo Saxon or Celtic origin who address issues of concern where they live and converse with the media, as similarly offensive and distasteful. Is every white person who does the same a community leader or referred to as such? I think not.

This is nothing to do with political correctness for its own sake, but everything to do with even-handed courtesy and common sense. I want to point out that by sending this letter I do not wish to be given the epithet of community leader for Cornish Sicilians.

Angelo Micciche

Hayle, Cornwall

I am so happy that the footballer Luis Suarez has been forced into finally making an apology of sorts, in this week, of all weeks, when racial intolerance is at the forefront of British public affairs.

He may be a massively talented player but he is a deeply flawed human being. Who can ever forget his shameful behaviour after the Uruguay-Ghana quarter-final when, after being sent off for the goal-saving handball, he then rubbed Ghana's noses in it with his despicable "this was the real hand of God" celebrations?

I regard his present predicament as total karma.

Dai Woosnam

Grimsby, North-east Lincolnshire

Let's hear itfor the ladies

Watching the Viennese concert on the BBC last weekend, I noted that the harpist, as far as I could see, was the only female in the full orchestra. Then we had the Vienna Boys' Choir. Perhaps we should send Austria some of our "human resources people" to point out the error of their male-dominated ways. Then we could have a mixed orchestra and the "Vienna Children Under-11 Choir".

John Sharkey


Tory guff

There have been a lot of "the people are now Tory" pieces ("Honours show the old order reasserting itself", 3 January), mostly centred on the TV programme Downton Abbey. These are lazy and complete guff. Two-thirds of the electorate did not vote Tory, and are unlikely to do so next time either. Since these election results do not reflect the British Attitudes survey, which is more believable? Millions of voters, or thousands of questionnaire answers?

Virginia CummingLondon N19

Absurd idea

A right to assisted suicide means another person or agency must have a duty to provide such assistance (report, 5 January). Yet how can there be an obligation on anyone to help kill someone else? This would be absurd. The existing legal guidance represents a reasonable compromise and does not need to be changed.

Gary Kitchen

Southport, Merseyside

What's the game?

People who were erroneously sold synchronised swimming tickets for London's Games are being offered alternative events instead, such as athletics and track cycling (report, 5 January). I applied for the athletics and cycling events in both ballots only to be told they were sold out. So either the report is incorrect or I wasn't told the truth.

Michael O'Hare

Northwood, Middlesex

Different stripe

In north London, I often pass a road sign that reads "Slow Zebra Crossing". What makes our local breed so sluggish in comparison with its faster cousins as revealed by your picture taken in the Serengeti (4 January)?

Neil Cooke

London E9

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss