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Damien Hirst: Jumping the Shark

Damien Hirst and the cruel economics of art
Damien Hirst: Jumping the Shark
2012 Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All Rights Reserved, DACS, London/ARS, NY

It’s not easy to blend into the background at an exhibition of minimalist art, but Damien Hirst is somehow succeeding. On a rainy night back in January, a fashionable throng circulates through the chilly Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan, glancing at the walls—hung with an array of Hirst’s “spot” paintings, patterned with grids of colorful dots—while scanning the cavernous space for a glimpse of the artist. One guy waves around a book of the star’s work, showing off a just-bestowed autograph. When a security guard is asked where he last saw Hirst, he says: “Check the gift shop.”

It’s a suitable destination for an artist whose great subject is the commercialization of his own genius. Hirst once said that it “makes me feel alive” when people buy his spot-themed wallpaper. There’s some in the store, as well as a skateboard deck ($735), coffee mug ($28), and credit-card holder ($8). “I think becoming a brand name,” Hirst told the Independent in 2000, “is a really important part of life.”