Thursday, December 4, 2008

When Bad Economic Crises Happen to Good Con Artists

Hey, you heard? There's a global recession on. And let me tell you, the multi-million dollar world of multi-millionaire pretend artists hasn't escaped unscathed.

Blahblahblah auction house art revenues down blahblahblah. Duh. Old, obvious news. What tickles me is that McArtist with Cheese, Damien Hirst, is laying off the people that actually make his art!

Full Disclosure: I used to like Damien Hirst. Well, "like" is a strong word. Let's say intrigued by. I can honestly say that this is entirely due to the work that introduced me to him in the 90s: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

Say what you will about the guy, that makes for a pretty striking installation. Its a shark. In a box. And who doesn't love a gallery plaque that that says "Materials: tiger shark, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution." But unfortunately, after seeing the piece I looked into the artist and found he is the biggest fake since Jeff Koons.

Hirst is the Paris Hilton of the art world- all branding and publicity. He's got nothing to say about anything. But jeez, at least Paris actually appears on her own reality shows or whatever- Hirst doesn't even create his own art. He has a Warhol-style "factory" (he can't even be original in his fakery) and says that he employs people to make his art because "I can't be fucking arsed to do it." Blech. Plenty of artists have employed assistants through the ages, but come on. He could at least pay them a living wage. Or, yknow, not fire them the moment the economic going gets tough. I mean, every piece he makes goes for over a million dollars! And frankly, I think his whole strategy has been to appeal to the recession-proof type motherfuckers of the world so he can't be in that much trouble. But you need to have art in order to sell it. Who's going to produce for you now, buddy? I mean, really, if you really can't afford the grad-studenty pay scale of your assistants, what are you going to do instead? Offshore? I can see it now: rows of shoeless Chinese children gluing diamond after diamond on a procession of human skulls...

And what of the unemployed underlings? I think they should all band together and make a show of Hirstian knockoffs. Its the same hands making the same art(or close enough to the same...gotta avoid copyright infringement), so there's probably a market, especially if you highlight the pedigree. Hell, there's more of a market. Hirst priced himself out of a good chunk of the market long ago, and now his boat is getting even smaller. Not small enough for it to sink, but definitely small enough to let some other boats in on the action. And its not like he can really lower his prices without damaging his whole "aesthetic" (read: aspirational brand-image).

So get in there, underlings! Cut his legs out from under him. I want to see an Ikea full of pickled shark coffee tables.

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