Or, the pointlessness of arguing about Damien Hirst’s posterity in the time of someone currently living – why Julian Spalding is merely a suckerfish feeding off the droppings of a great, steaming shark.
How I laughed when uncompromising arts tweeter @FisunGuner, needing well under 140 characters, described frothing Damien Hirst critic Julian Spalding as simply “stupid”. Either stupid, or a man with a book to sell – on April Fool’s day he published a Kindle tome called “Con Art”, trouncing conceptual art as some kind of century-long inverted pyramid scheme with a urinal at the bottom and a heap of rotting sharks at the top. It’s a view that seems not so much brave as mercenary: there’s plenty of lucre to be made in taking an indefensible position that a lot of uninformed people agree with, as long as you can stand the flack. Which isn’t very hard when the flack consists of debates with people like venerable ex-Time Out critic Sarah Kent, who despite picking polite holes in all Spalding’s illogical arguments on the radio the other day, lost out comprehensively due to her lack of vehemence. For more robust but equally frustrating repartee, check out the dully repetitive streams of predictable sniping beneath any online Hirst review. It’s like spending a slow-motion millennium with the fly-blown cow skull of his “One Thousand Years”, accompanied by trolls. Give it up, folks – we’ll all be as dead as that cow before any meaningful worth for Hirst’s oeuvre is established. How the smirking spot-meister will be interpreted by future generations is unguessable; just the fact that he’s not a robot may ensure his fame 200 years from now. (Insert “his art already looks like it was made by robots” joke here.) But the arguers are all missing the point: Hirst is having a fine old time while he’s alive, and that means he’s won – until he gets his self-anticipated lung cancer or deliberately goes broke in the name of art or something, anyway. Julian Spalding, as well he knows, is merely feeding off fame at its hottest: a wily suckerfish wriggling after the droppings of a great, steaming shark.