by Jessica Hazel.
Damien Hirst is one of Britain's richest people. In 1992 his pickled shark entitled 'The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living' was commissioned by Charles Saatchi for £50,000 and then sold in 2005 for £6 million. 'For The Love Of God' - a skull encrusted with 8,901 diamonds, sold for £50 million and in 2008 when Hirst auctioned 223 of his works, the lot met a world record breaking sale of £111 million.
There can be no doubt that Hirst is an astute businessman with an excellent PR machine behind him but there is something about him which just winds people up. Maybe it's his arrogant attitude towards his success, maybe it's the sheer amount of money that the man has accumulated or maybe it's because he employs a team of assistants to make his 'art' for him so he barely has to lift a finger as the pounds comeÂ rolling in. The latest bombardment from Hirst is a 70ft sculpture of a naked, pregnantÂ woman which has just arrived in the peaceful seaside town of Ilfracombe in Devon, much to the alarm of it's residents.
Hirst is loaning the sculpture to the town for the next 20 years, since it rolled in on a flat bed trailer earlier this week, there have been over 100 complaints about it. Designed to be Devon's answer to The Angel Of The North, 'Verity', as she is known holds a sword and stands on a pile of legal books, representing a 'modern allegory of truth and justice'. As Hirst's works go, it's mild in terms of its shock factor, but not to the locals of Ilfracombe...
A report to the council said objectors considered the statue to be "outrageous, immoral, bizarre, obscene, offensive, disgusting, distasteful, embarrassing, grotesque, disrespectful, insensitive, inappropriate, a monstrosity, tasteless, ugly, vulgar and not in good taste".
The objectors also described Hirst's work as "eccentricity posturing as art, of no artistic merit and not fit for its intended purpose" while some regarded it as being "demeaning to women and offensive to the female form". Another objector claimed it would "encourage teenage pregnancies".
Hirst has dominated the headlines this year with the hearsay surrounding his first UK major retrospective which launched at the Tate Modern back in April. The show has attracted a record amount of visitors to the Tate but has also stirred up new ants nests of hatred for the man who is at the forefront of modern art.
Writing in The Independent, art critic Julian Spalding said that Hirst's works "have no artistic content and are worthless as works of art".
"His work isn't worth a cent, not because it isn't great art, good art or even bad art, but because it isn't art at all," he said.
"Hirst should not be in the Tate. He's not an artist. What separates Michelangelo from Hirst is that Michelangelo was an artist and Hirst isn't."
He concluded by encouraging collectors to sell their Hirst pieces before the bottom drops out of his sham market. To this Damien's response was "Hmm. Keep 'em for a few more spins of the roulette wheel, I'd say."
The argument of what is, or isn't art is never going to reach a conclusion, people think that hitting Hirst with this accusation will get him where it hurts, but it just seems to spur him on to hack people off even more thoroughly.
In terms of arrogance and showing off, Hirst's diamond skull certainly takes the biscuit. Of it Hirst says, "I made the skull [For the Love of God] because in a situation where there was all this money being made, I wanted to make something about the money. When you're in a position where you have made loads and loads of money, it should be used to make art rather than letting it pile up."
Yes Damien, what a predicament to be in where you have far too much money to deal with, For The Love Of God is a beautiful piece but also represents all which is wrong with the world in terms of greed, materialism and individuals who possess far more money than they would ever be able to spend in a lifetime. Just to think about what else could have been done with this amount of money is enough to make you sick.
As another part of a series, Hirst studded an infant's skull who died before they were even two weeks old with 8,000 pink and white diamonds by the royal jewelers Bentley + Skinner. The work is entitled 'For Heaven's Sake' and has prompted a wave of anger from children's charities. Meanwhile Hirst has sat back, commenting that the piece is 'quite bling'.
No amount of money or criticism is going to stop Hirst in his tracks now. He is planning on touring and making until his dying day. He has become a caricature of himself, a figure we love to hate. An ability to shock in this day and aart ge is a rare thing indeed but Damien pulls it off with an arrogant flourish and the worst thing is, the more we moan the more successful he gets.
Visit Damien Hirst's website.