After leaving the small quadratic room of the exhibition, you enter a huge room with different works of art by Damien Steven Hirst revealing paintings, medicine cabinets and glass vitrines filled with formaldehyde.
The vitrine of A Thousand Years (1990) stands in the middle of the room, representing a life cycle. The cow’s head is the centre of the vitrine, on which flies hatch and feed. Dying flies on the insect-o-cutor represents the ephemerality of life.
From Hirst’s teenage years to the photograph from room 1, death has always been a central theme in his artworks. Are the themes of his work seen as a provocation or rather as his personal perception of life, which is short, monotonous, painful and fatal?
Vis-à-vis from A Thousand Years another glass vitrine which encloses something dead, there are 47 fish. They are all organized in a grid and look very similar, all swimming in the same direction. No fish stands out from the crowd, while none are striving against the stream. This art work perfectly depicts what Damien Hirst is doing – having bucked the trend and established his own way of producing and selling his art. As one can see, being “not ordinary” can be effective and helpful to building a successful career.
If you look at his spot paintings at the opposite side of the wall you will probably wonder why those have made him that famous as he is now. He exhibited his first spot painting (19869 in his very first exhibition, which was shown in a London Port Authority administrative block in one of the Docklands in London.
His visible (business) strategy: He has ideas, which no one has ever dared to put into practice, he has stuck to it and is still successful after more than 30 years in the business. And all of this, even though he is aware that his piece of art might seem to be quaint for some people, he has remained true to his own style.
The downside of his success as a contemporary artist is that his critics have pointed out that his art is not real art and that he is rather a businessman than an artist. However, how many of them are looking at the whole picture – at a man who has always wanted to produce art, and turned out to be indeed successful. But to become successful with your work, you either have to be very lucky or you have to know how to sell yourself.
Admitting, Damien Hirst has achieved both. His name stands for his own style, likewise as the names of Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol. Similar to Damien Hirst, the American Warhol studied Art and decided to move a centre of art, namely New York. All three artists have changed how the Art market operates, due to integrating media, pictures and technology by using the means of visual power (television, photographs and sculptures). Significantly, they have manipulated the way we see, but more importantly, what we consider as art. And most importantly, people’s judgement decides what contemporary art is.
Has he ruined the traditional view of art? It cannot be denied that pictures and the media are not mirroring the world as it is, but how people should see it to increase their consumption, and so to increase the profits of producers. Is the changing Art market just showing the direction in which the global economy is heading towards? More than ever pursuing the goal to make profit and not following traditional and ethic guidelines?