July 17, 2003
Damien Hirst draws

This from an article in the latest Spectator, by Mark Glazebrook:

Few people in any country have seen Damien Hirst’s drawings. It may even have been thought that he didn’t do any. After all, the telephone is sometimes more useful than the pencil to the conceptual artist. It may have been thought that Damien Hirst just has to ring some farm in Devon where he now lives, or the abattoir, or the butcher, plus the formaldehyde suppliers, the electrician and the factory where vitrines come from and, hey presto!, a lamb or a sliced pig becomes an expensive work of art. Surely it would take no more than a couple of extra calls, to Jay Jopling and Charles Saatchi, perhaps, and an invoice from Hirst’s firm Science Ltd., before a deal would be concluded?

Yes, that is pretty much how I imagine it.

But it turns out that the man can draw. Or at any rate that he does draw. Earlier paragraphs:

To the question ‘Can Hirst draw?’ the answer is ‘Of course’. It would seem that you cannot stop him. It emerges that Hirst has been a compulsive draughtsman from childhood on. Legend has it that his mother helped by never running out of bits of paper with which to feed his hungry hand. This show contains many quite different subjects, types and sizes of drawing. Hirst may investigate an actual skull or a woman’s head in a painting by Delacroix. (There are many elements of the Romantic artist in Hirst.) Some drawings, at least one of them explicitly, show Hirst’s fascination with the preoccupations of Francis Bacon. Hirst’s spot paintings, which are interestingly different from each other in their shapes and in other ways, are worked out in ink on graph paper. These are studies. His spin drawings are in very soft lead pencil and stand on their own, like his spin paintings.

To the question ‘How good are Hirst’s drawings?’, the answer is that even the simplest ones are good enough for his own purposes. They are rather good in their own way. …

In their own way. That could mean good, or rubbish, or anything in between. But the fact that Damien Hirst can draw and does draw doesn't mean that his conceptual art is other than foolishness. Maybe the rule is that in order to put weird junk in art galleries you have to be able to do old fashioned drawing to an adequate standard. So what? Lots of absurdly overpaid professions are defended with irrelevant but tough-to-negotiate entrance requirements.

That Hirst can do hands-on drawing says nothing about the merit of his various hands-off installations. You aren't a good artist merely because it has been decided that you are entitled to be.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:49 PM
Category: Modern art