Friday, February 3, 2012

The Damien Hirst Spot Challenge: Am I dotty? (3 down, 8 to go!)


That was easy: I knocked off the first three spots in NYC by zipping around on my Pantone Honeysuckle folding bike - a Bike Friday Speeding tikit - and my special spot hat!
If you're an art lover, it's very dangerous to come off an intense filming project and stumble around the gallery district. You're liable to slap down plastic just to reward yourself for your blood, sweat & tears, then utterly regret it when the charge hits the fan.

You're probably safe if you're merely a 99%-er like me, killing an afternoon in places I love, like Christies, Sothebys, Phillips de Pury or Gagosian. I was never in any danger of being hammered at a recent Phillips de Pury auction (that's because I made sure not to register for a paddle). But if someone tells me I can buy a Damien Hirst print with the frequent flyer miles languishing in my account ... tie me down quick!

The Complete Spot Challenge, happening simultaneously in seven countries as I type,  is a kind of "scavenger hunt" involving the eleven Gagosian galleries showing a retrospective of Hirst's Spot Paintings, 1986 - 2011. Supposedly, those who wing it to all eleven located in New York (3), Beverley Hills, Hong Kong, Athens, Geneva, Rome, Paris and London (2) will be rewarded with a personally dedicated Hirst print for their to-hell-with-my-carbon-footprint caper.

The Madison gallery was guarded by a friendly man who lets you take a shot of the art as long as you mar it by appearing dead center like this. 
Can you stand seeing my red spot again.
And did I fall for it? At least for the New York leg, which was easy given that I live here. With my "special spot hat," purchased from a little Ecuadorian lady in some fundraiser for women artisans, I set out on my folding bike and knocked off all three in one afternoon. Now for the hard part. Not so much the the flights, but can I couch surf friends and would-be-friends just for one night to get a stamp in Beverley Hills, Hong Kong, Geneva, Athens, Rome and Paris (I do have friends in London) so as not to spend half-a-Hirst on hotel bills? Will I be snubbed by my erudite friends who cannot being to understand the 10% illogical whimsy of doing such a caper?

Right next door to the Madison show is a Spot Shoppe where you can buy I Heart DH t-shirts, iron-on spot stickers, cufflinks, skateboards, mugs and even prints for a few thou. The art-meets-commerce is unapologetic and just a touch ironic.
I wasn't a die-hard Hirst fan per se, but being a former copywriter/CD of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising in 3 countries, I infuriate my purist art friends by being very comfortable at the intersection of art-meets commerce, where Hirst unapologetically perches. I admit to gazing at his butterflies at the New York Armory show, entertaining the thought of owning one because they're just pretty, and would be a nice counterpoint to my beloved photo of desolate stripmallandia in Japan by Masayo Nishimura. Same for one of his better spin paintings, whether they were done by him or his kids ...
Sometimes, girls just want to have fun.

Hirst butterflies at the 2011 Armory Show, NYC.

The butterfly prints sold for $3000 each. They were very pretty indeed - real crowdpleasers - a well-packaged, well advertised product.

For the Love of God ... you don't even need the own a diamond encrusted skull, just a diamond-dusted photocopy of one ...
... which sold for $2000 each at the New York Armory Show, 2011

It was Charles Saatchi who discovered Hirst, and soon the young artist was free to do kinds of stuff we copywriters come up with often but discard because "the client will never buy it - and make it Verve-Cliquot-clinking reality. It may not be art for some, but for all of us, it's undeniably success.


The enormous Twister-mats at the 24th St gallery. It's a real trip for die-hard minimalists, of which I am one. 
Banksy of course, has done a similar thing with his undeniable street-snarky talent, and the more he mocks his fawning investors, the more they buy and drive up his stock, as I noted here. Don't blame the artists, blame the human condition. Suffice to say, it's a Darwinian world, and nothing escapes the onslaught of commerce. We wouldn't give a hoot except for the money we see others making. We wouldn't be so divided on whether Paris Hilton has value or not if she weren't rich. We just wouldn't care. Here's my impromptu encounter with her: here.

The perennially cool galleristas behind Gagosians worldwide desks must be yawning at the new breed of wannabe art targets waving their little Willie Wonka tickets to be stamped.  And the great freedom is going in there, getting my card stamped and having a formaldehyde-dunked whale of time doing it.

Other reading: 

An incisive review of this show by Henry Mc Mahon on ArtCritical
(Thank you to artist Pamela Talese)

Minus Space a Brooklyn gallery for diehard minimalists, and one of my favorite sites. The work is so pure, and transmits so well in cyberspace, I confess I haven't even gotten on my bike to go visit in person YET. But I will, and it won't take up any frequent flyer points either!

The Spot Challenge

Next stop: Gearing up for the Challenge
ChelseaGallerista on Facebook
Read all Spot Challenge posts




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