Street artists take on Hirst

It seems that a number of street artists have taken to referencing Damien Hirst’s spot paintings in their work. These are just three examples.

Hirst Beejoir
Paintings by Beejoir. Photo by nolionsinengland

Painting by Banksy (and Hirst). Photo by Sabeth718
Painting by Banksy (and Hirst). Photo by Sabeth718
Painting by Blek le Rat. Photo by WallKandy
Painting by Blek le Rat. Photo by WallKandy

The other night, a friend of mine was trying to argue that of these Blek’s painting is most the important street art piece about Hirst, closely followed by Beejoir’s series, followed by Banksy’s. His argument is that Blek and Beejoir did their paintings long before Banksy did his, and so the Hirst reference is old hat now. In addition, this friend sees this as just another time that Banksy has made a stencil that Blek did better and way before Banksy.

If I had to order those three pieces in terms of importance, I would actually go in the exact opposite order as my friend.

Blek le Rat’s piece, especially when thinking about Hirst, is almost inconsequential. As Blek explained this piece to me, it’s about how it is time for conceptual art to step aside and how it is street art’s turn to be important in the larger art world. Makes sense, but then it’s not really about Hirst. Hirst is just used as a reference point. He’s the best known conceptual artist, so naturally Blek includes Hirst in his piece declaring the death of conceptual art, but only so that people understand better what Blek is painting about. Also, Blek’s piece just didn’t get the attention that the work by either Beejoir or Banksy got. It was a one time image, and not a particularly well known piece in that show (his 2008 solo with Black Rat Press). Beejoir turned his spots into a recognizable series just as Hirst did, and Banksy’s is in his Bristol Museum where it is hidden among other paintings by famous painters. I think what Blek has to say is important, but just not that important in terms of Hirst specifically and Hirst’s spots.

Beejoir’s series of spot paintings really said something that everybody else was thinking about conceptual art and Hirst in particular: “Hey, I could do that!” Also, it’s a great party trick. Hang one of those painting on your wall and see who spots what’s wrong with it. They were a series, so lots of people know about them, which adds to the work’s importance. And also, the work directly targets Hirst.

And then there is Banksy’s piece. It is done on an actual original Hirst spot painting. That, to me, puts it miles above the others. Banksy has said flat out “This ‘art,’ if it is art and not just wallpaper, is no more important than mine. If my work gets painted over, then Hirst should have the same privilege.” To me, that’s a much more important message than either Blek le Rat or Beejoir’s piece (plus, I think that Beejoir’s point is contained within Banksy’s painting as well since many art collectors might say “Hey. Anybody could do that and it’s not proper art!” about stencils and simple graffiti).

What do other people think, and do you know any other street artists who have been referencing Hirst and conceptual art in their work (this is another fav of mine)?