• Slight of Hand

Yes, the spelling’s deliberate, though ‘Sleight of Hand’ is equally appropriate to my rant of the day.  I usually quite enjoy my grumpy moments, but the realisation that the media circus that is the Damien Hirst industry has launched its latest stunt has really made me see red (and orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).

All eleven Gagosian galleries (in Athens, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Rome) open today with ‘The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011’.  They say that over 300 paintings will be on show, though that can hardly be a complete list.  In fact, it’s barely 20% of the 1500 reportedly made by Hirst’s factory of assistants.  If we buy the line that artists have always had a team of assistants, we have to ask the question: ‘How much active, present input has the artist had?’  Rembrandt was surely in the studio with his assistants, constantly in touch and on their shoulder.  It would be interesting to know the nature and extent of Hirst’s actual presence in the creative process. If human contact was minimal, what does that say about the hands-off nature of the product? Slight?  Sleight?

Well, there are others better qualified than I am to comment on this matter, in the same way that there are those who understand better than I the behaviour of certain financiers.  I can but append three sayings that seem to me to point up the bankruptcy evident in today’s events.

• What is a cynic?  A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. (Oscar Wilde)

• Nothing kills creativity more than the lethal combination of cynicism, laziness and pretension. (unattrib.)

• Opportunists thrive only in spaces afforded by dupes. (Chinese saying)

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