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I started this blog in 2007. No one had heard of The Wire and I was making experimental films that a select few saw. My initial tagline for this blog was: 'I write concisely. always. I'm trying to improve this - however, sometimes few words work better'. Then I found Twitter. However, I still post here once a week, so feel free to comment or just to simply say hii.
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Monday, September 22, 2008 @ 8:54 AM
The Mona Lisa Curse

The Mona Lisa Curse, the first film in Channel 4's three-part Art and Money season, is a timely polemic by internationally renowned art critic Robert Hughes that examines how the world's most famous painting came to influence the art world. I watched The Mona Lisa Curse before the fantastic Whale night on BBC 4. I did go for a swim in the sea earlier in the day - so i'm not a total culture/couch potato. Robert Hughes does not understand Damien Hirst and harshly critisised him and the buyers of his work. He also cannot comprehend the amount of money his work sells for. Hughes turned a millionaire/buyer of Hirst's and Warhol's work into a babbling teen unsure of why he even purchased the said artists works. This was entertaining to watch but I'm sure the buyer had the last laugh as Robert Hughes exited the room - he has $$$$$$$$$$, there does not appear to be a recession among the rich. Here is Germaine Greer's response to The Mona Lisa Curse which was featured on todays Guardian

Germaine Greer Note to Robert Hughes:
Bob, dear, Damien Hirst is just one of many artists you don't get
Germaine Greer
Monday September 22 2008
The Guardian


Watching Robert Hughes shape up to Damien Hirst has been fun, but it would have been more fun if Hughes had been able to lay a glove on his quarry. The critic swung wildly but the artist was always beyond his reach. Hughes claims to be astounded that Hirst's 35ft statue Virgin Mother could be worth £5m and yet be made by someone "with so little facility". What is touching about Hughes's despair is that he thinks that artists still make things. It's a long time since Hirst actually made an artwork with his own hands. A more cogent criticism of his installations might be that the quality of the craftsmanship demanded by Hirst is really not very good. The shelves and cabinets in Pharmacy (1992) were sloppily fitted and poorly finished, but they still sold for £11m. The first time I saw Mother and Child Divided (1993), with bubbles of gas clinging to the decomposing carcasses of cow and calf, and took a good look at the structure of their vitrines, goosebumps stood up on my skin. I had a momentary vision of the whole setup exploding, showing the onlookers with floods of formaldehyde, shards of plate glass and a blizzard of jet-propelled cow parts.

Hirst is quite frank about what he doesn't do. He doesn't paint his triumphantly vacuous spot paintings - the best spot paintings by Damien Hirst are those painted by Rachel Howard. His undeniable genius consists in getting people to buy them. Damien Hirst is a brand, because the art form of the 21st century is marketing. To develop so strong a brand on so conspicuously threadbare a rationale is hugely creative - revolutionary even. The whole stupendous gallimaufrey is a Vanitas, a reminder of futility and entropy. Hughes still believes that great art can be guaranteed to survive the ravages of time, because of its intrinsic merit. Hirst knows better. The prices his work fetches are verifications of his main point; they are not the point. No one knows better than Hirst that consumers of his work are incapable of getting that point. His dead cow is a lineal descendant of the Golden Calf. Hughes is sensitive enough to pick up the resonance. "One might as well be in Forest Lawn [the famous LA cemetery] contemplating a loved one," he shouts at Hirst's calf with the golden hooves - auctioned for £9.2m - but does not realise it is Hirst who has put that idea into his head. Instead he asserts that there is no resonance in Hirst's work. Bob dear, the Sotheby's auction was the work.

I have known Hughes and liked him all my adult life, but I have also disapproved of him pretty consistently. I was present when he was the after-dinner speaker at the Royal Academy dinner four years ago, when he was so dismissive of any art that was not drawing, painting or carving, that I suspected him of tailoring his speech to fit what he took to be the conservatism of the academicians. I could hardly imagine that he had turned his back on all the most important movements in 20th-century art or that he was still in love with the figure of the great master whose sensibility is finer, sentiment more noble, hand more divinely driven than those of the rest of us lesser mortals. No wonder Jake and Dinos Chapman put so much energy into defacing Goya, I thought, and stumped off home.

Everybody loves it when Hughes goes off on a rant about the schlock of the new, but he is too easily seduced into blaming the wrong people. A Hughes label is crafted to stick fast to its victim. As long as that's only Julian Schnabel, who is gifted enough to survive both over-valuation and under-valuation, there's not much harm done. Hughes's love of Lucian Freud is a different matter, based as it seems to be in a perception of kindredness of spirit. He denies any pretension to moral superiority, but his condemnation of art he refuses to understand is entirely expressed in moral terms, which leaves no alternative but to see Hughes promoting himself and his favourites as morally superior. What he is most impressed by in Freud's work is, after all, its laboriousness. Hughes doesn't understand a good deal of art - doesn't get Basquiat or Baselitz, for example. What is being presented as aesthetic sensibility is, in fact, moralism, of a kind that has always bedevilled innovative artists. Sorry, Bob, but you're a stuckist, after all.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008

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