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    The Slow Death of Damien Hirst
by Charlie Finch
 
     
 
Installation view of Damien Hirst's "Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings" at Gagosian Gallery, with Hymn and From the Cradle to the Grave
 
The History of Pain
(foreground) with
Lost Love (Bright Fish)
(right) and Stripteaser
 
Naja Haje
and Naja Nigricollis Nigricollis
 
Trinity
(detail)
 
Leonardo da Vinci once remarked that "small rooms or dwellings set the mind in the right path, large ones cause it to go astray."

The gigantic new configuration of Gagosian Gallery on West 24th Street has definitely led the formerly disciplined Mr. Damien down the garden path to chaos. The man, whose crew meticulously assembled "pharmacy" into a visual sonata or encased dead animals in poisonous but solemn majesty, has disassembled his laboratory and turned into a ghoulish flea market, full of skeletons with ping pong balls for eyes, gynecological instruments, live fish, television commercials on HDTVs, even scattering a few of his marvelous dot paintings hither and yon.

The vitrines (does he buy them by the dozen?) become burdensome and repetitious; the beautiful blue green grid on Gagosian's walls, a kind of rational template for the total mess, gets lost in the flood; the colored bronze giant biological toy called Hymn, so impressive in reproduction, becomes an afterthought.

A white beach ball bounces on some sharp blades: boooring.

That an artist with such high standards should turn himself into a one trick pony, due to an excess of space, money and self-regard, is unfortunate, but not unprecedented. One thinks of Munch, de Chirico, Olitski, Robert Indiana, all filled incessantly with too muchness of the sameness.

The massive maddened crowd bulging through security at the opening probably didn't care that Damien's standards had plunged, nor did the inebriated yots at the oh so exclusive after party at Eric Goode's new club, Chelsea Park.

But the cumulative effect of Hirst's new show is undeniable -- he's lowered himself to the level of Hirst manqués such as Mark Dion or Eric Goode himself (he's also an artist).

May we propose a small antidote to this swollen, liverish shit you've dumped on us, Damien. It comes from Emily Dickinson:

I died for beauty, but was scarce adjusted in the tomb, when one who died for truth was lain in an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed? "For beauty" I replied. "And for truth -- the two are one; we brethren are," he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a-night, we talked between the rooms, until the moss had reached our lips, and covered up our names.

There's your program in a nutshell, Damien -- now climb out of your crypt, and with the Zen master, "Walk on!!"


CHARLIE FINCH is coauthor of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).