Damien Hirst, The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011, Gagosian Gallery

Damien Hirst is a master manipulator, and he is currently manipulating across the globe with all eleven Gagosian galleries dedicating their January shows to his innumerable spot paintings. This worldwide exhibition features more than 300 paintings (331 to be exact, a small percentage of the 1,400 in existence) created over twenty-five years designed and created by Hirst and his army of assistants. Hirst himself in fact is known to have only painted five, the other 1,395 done by his dedicated employees. This, of course has raised much controversy, but Hirst ferociously defends his actions claiming: “every single spot painting contains my eye, my hand and my heart.” I thought he was trying to remove himself from pretention?

Included in the exhibitions is the first spots on board that Hirst created in 1986, the smallest spot painting – half a spot measuring 1 x ½ inch created in 1996 (I wish I could see this one!) and the most recent spot painting completed in 2011 containing 25,781 spots that are each 1 millimeter in diameter, with no single colour repeated.

On a cold and dreary Saturday I went along to the Britannia Street gallery with my dad and brother, to join the super cool flaneurs already checking out the spots. We were all a little dazed by it – dotty Hirst canvases of all shapes and sizes cover the walls, not dissimilar to the Cath Kidson January sale display, both are unlimited and easily replicated.

What Hirst is trying to achieve exactly I am unsure, but there are many theories out there… is it a cold hearted and exact experiment? A challenge to the viewer? A satire of the pretentious and demanding art world of today? Simply speaking the dots resemble pharmaceutical pills, lined up all ready for the Hirst hoards to swallow. And I predict the viewers will, especially the tourists.

It is all too easy to criticise the wealthiest artist on the planet, but actually, some of these pictures I found quite satisfying, and even calming. I revelled in the gloss colours and the painstaking precision. They are accessible and fun for the family, I guess, but after the characterful Noble exhibition (that made its home in the Gagosian last), the Hirst spots feel empty and redundant. What I do love about this series of exhibitions is the sense of togetherness, there is a wonderful thing about so many cities all experiencing the same show at the same time.

Oh and the shop is quite good too, though the self important shop assistant seemed hugely out of his comfort zone selling spot t-shirts and other merchandise.

Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011 continues across the world until 18 February 2012, more information here. In London at Britannia Street and Davies Street, entry is free.


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