Very Good Paragraphs

From Peter Schjeldahl’s* review of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings currently on exhibit at Gagosian galleries around the world, in the 23 January New Yorker:

Duchamp remarked that art is created partly by its maker and partly by its audience. Hirst dumps pretty much the entire transaction into the audience’s lap. The result is art in the way that some exotic financial dealings are legal: by a whisker. Just as no law forbids the sale of bundled credit-default swaps on bundled subprime mortgages, no agreed-on aesthetic principle invalidates paintings that are churned out by proxy and then bid up at auction as fungible commodities. The “Why?” in such matters comes down to a historic, all-purpose, great “Why not?” A sense of frictionless impunity must be exciting if you’re on the supply side of the economy and the culture. If you aren’t, it feels wrong. The deadness of Hirst’s product lines—flipping the bird to anyone who na├»vely craves more and better from art—upsets a lot of people. I deem their ire misdirected. Don’t shoot the messenger. Hirst honestly vivifies a situation in which the power of money celebrates itself by shedding all pretext of supporting illiquid values. When, in 2007, Hirst made a media event of fashioning and marketing a diamond-encrusted skull, “For the Love of God,” he as much as shouted the awful truth. (Whether or not the bibelot sold and, if so, fetched its asking price of fifty million pounds—some have doubted Hirst’s work on it—is an interesting but tangential questions.) In the course of one fair and square taunt after another, Hirst surely marvels at what he is abetted in getting away with. “The Complete Spot Paintings,” to his credit, makes no bones about what a certain precinct of the world has come to. What it come to next is somebody else’s move.

*I spelled this right the first time without having to check, which makes me not so much a good speller (or Germanic name-knower) but rather a total dumbass NYer fanboy.

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