A HIRST EXTRAVAGANZA
Love his work or hate it, even art-world cynics have to admit that when it comes to masterly marketing few artists can beat the British bad boy Damien Hirst. When he surprised everyone in 2008 by holding a two-day auction at Sotheby’s in London that included everything from dead animals submerged in tanks of formaldehyde to his signature medicine cabinets and swirl paintings, about 21,000 people flocked in to see what looked like an elegant retrospective. And despite the reeling of the financial markets back then, collectors and speculators willingly invested in the Hirst brand. The auctions — of 223 examples of Mr. Hirst’s art — totaled $200.7 million.
As part of his sales pitch he announced that he would no longer be making spin or butterfly paintings, and that his production of dead animals and spot paintings would be drastically reduced. Not exactly. Reminded of that statement in a recent telephone interview, he chuckled and said: “I keep trying to end them. But then I get these crazy ideas, and I can’t stop.”
Gagosian Gallery around the world — 11 in all — will hold its own version of “Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011.” The show will open on the same, not yet determined day in every city — New York, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, Athens, Geneva and Hong Kong — and run from mid-January through February 2012.