damien hirst criticismWhy is there so much controversy over Damien Hirst in the art world?

He has been called many things – a con artist, a sell out, no talent, and even not an artist at all.

It seems that with increased success, wealth, and notoriety comes intense public scrutiny. He has achieved the fame of richest artist ever.

But, where did he get his ideas from? Is he a sell out by charging such enormous prices for his pieces?


Damien Hirst Criticism

These are just a few of  the things Damien Hirst has been criticised for:

  1. A Sell Out?

    He has been accused of being money-grabbing - being more focussed on making money than creating art. In 1998, he bypassed the gallery system and sold an entire show of new art at the auction house Sotheby’s. He made a record breaking $198 million!

    Damien Hirst has been criticised for his emphasis on commercialism and selling artworks for outrageous prices, such as “For the Love of God”, a diamond encrusted skull. This cost £14 million to create, but according to reports sold for over £50 million.  

  2. Damien Hirst Plagarism?

    Many have claimed that he copied their ideas, something that Hirst apparently believed in. He has been accused of plagiarism 15 times. In 2006, Damien Hirst is quoted as saying "Lucky for me, when I went to art school we were a generation where we didn't have any shame about stealing other people's ideas. You call it a tribute".

    There are several cases of accusations of copying ideas, and even litigation at one point. These are just a few: 

    damien hirst spiritIn 2003, Damien Hirst created a Dove painting titled “Spirit” (right), which is almost identical to a Christmas card from the 80’s.

    Damien Hirst’s spot paintings were an idea originated by American painter Thomas Downing in the 1960’s, and a Swiss artist (John Armleder) created them in the 70’s.

    Many of the ideas and references for his work came from the “Carolina Biological Supply Company Science catalogue”, such as butterflies and bisected cows.

    dead shark isnt artDamien Hirst isn’t the first one to come up with the idea of exhibiting dead sharks. An artist named Eddie Saunders had one on display two years before Damien Hirst – “A Dead Shark Isn't Art” – (left)

    Damien Hirst created his dead shark preserved in formaldehyde The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, in 1991, which was eventually sold by Charles Saatchi for a reported 8 million dollars.

    Some ask, why was Hirst’s piece recognized as art while Saunders shark wasn’t?

    See many more claims of stealing ideas and plagarism here.

    Do you think these claims are warranted? Should it still be considered art - even if parts are plagiarized? 

  3. His Art is Morbid?

    Create your own Website!Some are appalled and disgusted by his morbid sculptures of half decomposing animal corpses and other controversial pieces. In “Mother and Child Divided” he exhibited a cow and calf cut in half inside a tank filled with formaldehyde solution.

    They ask, does art have to be ugly and disturbing to be popular?

    His art seems to be inciting controversy just to grab attention.

    This is the issue for many:
    Why do so many artists with more talent and technical skill – who paint more appealing things - receive so little attention, while Damien Hirst’s artworks (mostly created from the help of others) sell for top dollar?

    Have you taken a look at the top selling artworks for 2011? Does any of these look pretty to you? Would you hang them in your living-room? Well, maybe you would because of the name – but not because its attractive. Art does not always have to be pretty, but it does make us think.   

  4. He doesn’t create everything himself?

    He has over 100 studio assistants employed to do most of the work on his paintings and sculptural pieces. In some cases, such as his spin paintings, paintings are created entirely by assistants.

    Even though he was criticised for this, other artists, such as Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol,  and Thomas Kinkade have done the same.

In spite of all these accusations, Damien Hirst is still regarded by many of the art world elite as one of the greatest living artists – and the wealthiest. He is recognized for bringing British art into the forefront.

The Tate Gallery in London, England recently held a retrospective of
Hirst’s art, from April 4 – Sept. 9, 2012.


What do YOU think of Damien Hirst and his controversial art?

Post a Comment Blogger

  1. The top selling artists of 2011 and their prices have nothing to do with art. It seems that in this time connections to the right people and creating a name with their assistance is the idea.
    I do not either respect Damien Hirst, his works and his "factory" co workers.
    So sad for real artists with their time spent learning, creating and trying to sell their works.

  2. Interesting comment above. I wonder if one has viewed his retropspective exhibition recently on might have a different opinion.

    A great artist and though a hard pill to swallow a great marketeer. The main feature was that he took absolute control of the marketing and selling end of his art and took it away from the galleries - the commercial curators and the auction houses until he was ready.He was able to tap into and profit from a unique economic situation that existed in the world of art at that time.

    A copyist? Show me an aritst who has not copied or plagarised or parodied other work.It is prevelant in art - music - literature througout history.

    Whatever criticism is levelled at DH must also be levelled at Andy Warhol [I hear a million Americans draw breath] - same process - same marketing and branding scheme - same result. Well done DH for using a blueprint already proven and tested.

    As an artist no one ever said you have to re invent the wheel.

  3. @Witham Thanks Witham.. appreciate your comment!

  4. I'm sorry, but it doesn't matter how it is presented, dead cows and sharks are NOT art. I think people revere and buy art such as this because they have been told it is art! In the snobby world of fine art buying (of the most famous artists and richest buyers I refer)no one wants to look foolish by questioning whether it is art or not.
    As for plagiarism, I don't think any artist, no matter how well known or wealthy they may be, should get away with stealing other artist's ideas and work.

  5. Great points Witham! DH has made a lot of money and good on him. He comes up with ideas (inspired by things around him) but with his own twist. When I worked in the fashion industry you couldn't copy a garment exactly, you had to have at least 10 differences. Some of his pieces may look like others, but they are slightly different.

    So what if he has used assistants, I wish I had one! I have way too many ideas and not enough time to execute them :-(

    DH is not stealing other artists ideas or work. He is just being an artist - someone that is inspired by the things around them.

  6. @Project M Thanks Project M... I could certainly do with an assistant as well. So much of an artist's time goes into setting up and cleaning up. For my own art, I wouldn't feel right about allowing anyone else to do the brushwork without calling it a collaboration piece.

    But I can see where DH is coming from... his art is conceptual. He says the idea is more important than what is created, so he can have anyone create it and still call it is own, because he is the artist - and the idea came from him.

  7. Without the support of people with too much money who still want more no one would have heard of the man, that along with a great deal of ignorance as to what art is.An idea in someone's head is not a work of art,it just isn't that simple I'm afraid.
    It goes along with the mentality of multiple choice in exams,if you are a lucky person you pass.It's rubbish.
    True artists are not helped by the RA endorsing another person in this group,chuck the animal corpses on the unmade bed,change the name of the Turner Prize so a great master can rest in peace and for goodness sake lets stop being conned.

  8. @Witham Great comment. And I am an artist who has spent many years learning and creating, and I have struggled to make a career out of what I love to do. It is a reality that our ever-increasing competitive 'global economy' demands that anyone trying to sell their work must become a great marketeer; something I really need to work on. And in some cases it takes a lot of wit; which Hirst (and Banksy for that matter) has.

    And many a year ago I learned that nothing is original, and that an 'idea' cannot be copyrighted, especially a method of painting. Just how many of our creations are not based on something that has come before, or is not a response to something that has come before; directly or indirectly.

    Has anyone read Damien Hirst, "Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results, and Findings"? The following link will take you to a commentary on his exhibition of the same name in 2001.


    I remember whilst reading his book, thinking of the genius in his concepts, the nod he's given to the scientific in his works, the brutality of life, death and everything in between. One of the best books I've read, but is not for the 'weak-stomached'!

    And so for me, in separating myself from the great sadness that comes with knowing that that kind of money probably won't come to me through my practice (though you never know...), I have taken such inspiration from Hirst, and Banksy who have really stuck it to the art world. Good on them, and if you think you know what art isn't, then you should really make an effort to define, precisely what art is.

    Considering Hirst's work attracts such a reaction from people makes me smile, and that for me, is art. :D

  9. I am always amazed at the statements which go something like '...you cannot call that art' - thats what they said about - Manet and Cezanne and Picasso and Matisse and on and on.

    When I was at art college in the late 80s I created a piece which I called Big Cr** and Flies - it was a perspex box in which on a plinth a de branded burger and chips in an open box sat on a plinth - into it I put about 30 flies and put some minute air holes in the perspex - Why? I thought it demonstrated how through consumerism and glutony we would [as it did after 6 weeks on show] eventually reduce ourselves to a crawling mass of gunge. My tutors nearly stopped me putting it into my degree show - I won the day and all three of the exterior marking board gave me maximum marks.

    Now was it art - who knows - but if people and especially artists continue to hang on to the notion that if it is not a oil - pastel - watercolour in the manner of traditional art then it is not art - then they are not artists at all just copyists themselves of antiquated techniqies and mindsets.

    To ensure art breaths grows and moves forward it needs the Beatles - The Elvises - The Punk Rockers - The John Mcenroes of the world to shake it up and drive it forward.

    If you do not believe this then you do not understand the true importance of just about every great artist who lived who changed the way art was created and more importantly changed how art was thought about.

  10. @WithamI paint parody on "The Scream After Munch" 2006, by L.DARVAS, take a look in http://www.facebook.com/lydia.darvas
    I appreciate your opinion. let me know if this is Ok ? or not ? I painted nice PARODIE of The Scream in quicksand, this was my idea after the original Munch was stolen from Museum ! is my idea to paint the Scream in quicksand Ok ? is more lowly to looked on ?


  11. Seems to me he is creating just the type of art the richest money hoarders would respond to. Morbid and grotesque. I say let them eat their formaldehyde cake. They are buying his work with the tax dollars they dodged paying or the living wage they refused to pay the folks who helped them make all their cash. It's a perfect fit. I can so see why they are paying millions for art they can relate to. Gives you quite a perspective on the mentality of the elite. It's like their wanting to dine on the eggs of and endangered sea turtle. They have lots of eggs they could choose to eat but hey, those sea turtle eggs are a must have. For years scientist tried to find out what was going on with the sea turtles, only to find that the black market eggs were the cause. Not the environment, but the elite who must have something of everything they are told they can't have and will not be denied.

  12. O.K. people. Here's the real scoop. It is art as soon as the artists says it is art no matter what form it takes. Looking back in art history will tell you that is the situation.

    That's the first step. And now comes the most important step and that is to determine if it is good art or bad art. That is really what you all have been talking about wether you realize it or not.

    Now how do you make that determination? Ask me! I do it all the time when I'm at a show, looking at creations on the net or when I'm evaluating my own work. You do that also. Only you screw things up by saying you are trying to determine if it is art or not.

    And don't give me that B.S. that you only create for the love of it. There's not one of you that if I offer enough money, in most cases, that you won't sell it. The real question is why do you create it? I do it because I can't not do it. I try to stop being creative but I can't.

    So when I sell, I can afford more materials, I have space on my walls to add more and I feel really great that someone thinks enough about my work that they will spend their hard earned (or not - it really makes no difference to me) cash for my work.

  13. I would like congratulate Mr. Hirst on his initiative in creating such thought provoking confrontational work it has given me great enthusiasm and spawned my creative eye.
    As for the fools who i have just read about shouting Plagiarism all art is a form of this our ideas are born from other peoples ideas our creations and i commend Mr. Hirst for his bravery for allowing the anal retentive audience an insight into his imagination and practices.
    why shouldn't he command big bucks for his work, the minority,who argue this do not appreciate the amount of research, planning, design and production put into creating a piece of work of such magnitude, Damien's work has inspired my curiosity and creative curve, and i wish him greater success in the future. i applaude you. gratefully Dave Monet.


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