Laurence Billiet sent over this photo of a piece she spotted in Paris, referencing Damien Hirst’s spot paintings. Hirst’s spot paintings have currently taken over all 11 Gagosian galleries in 8 countries. While some people may think that Hirst may be a lazy artist making art for lazy people, so far three people (including Tanley Wong of Arrested Motion) have completed the “spot challenge” and visited all 11 exhibits, so at least some of Hirst’s fans are pretty driven.
Last night hosted a packed opening at Black Rat Projects entitled Printmaking Today. Normally print shows tend to be a bit tedious, since they are usually reproduced images of originals or have been so before upon their initial releases. But Black Rat hosted a refreshingly eclectic display of prints by artists ranging from Damien Hirst, Banksy, Matt Small, D*Face, Shepard Fairey and more. As much shit as I got for a previous post of mine about street artists becoming accepted into the art canon, this show only adds further evidence to my point. While many high end fine art establishments look down on street art and find it a passing trend in galleries, this show saw Hirst’s work next to D*Face and Bridget Riley (whose work is in the Tate) close to a Shepard Fairey, without any work looking out of place. My friends and I were discussing how not only does street art borrow from fine art, but fine artists are definitely borrowing from the work of street and outsider artists. The lines are quickly blurring between low brow and fine art, so it is finally nice to see the two in such a show, and not just in an auction.
The show also boasted an incredible pop-up project space by ROA. Each angle showed a new image, and I swear you could walk around it ten time and would still see something different. The works may not be new, quite similar to the LA and NY shows, but the concept is so much more complex and is worth checking out just for that reason.
My favorite of the night had to be Pure Evil‘s “Dripping Liza” work that culminated with a puddle of teal paint down on the floor near the canvas. Andy Warhol may be done to death, but Pure Evil still manages to put a new spin on an over-saturated piece of art that needs to be seen in person to attain the full effect.
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.
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)?