Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Art and Class

I wrote the previous post and then wondered what art produced for the seriously rich would be like.

The answer took but a minute. It would be "For the Love of God" by British artist Damien Hirst. This is a lifesize cast of a human skull done in platinum and covered with 8,601 pave-set perfect diamonds weighing a total of 1106.18 carets. According to Hirst, it cost between 10 and 15 million dollars to make. The asking price for it was 99 million dollars; and Hirst claims that it has sold to anonymous buyers for the asking price.


Timmi Duchamp said...

During the Italian Renaissance, art for the rich took the form of donor paintings, in which saints were given the faces of the men who had paid to have the painting made. Later, Gainsborough's paintings for the rich depicted the owner in possession of his landed estate. Is the basic message here that for the rich, it's all about vanity?

Eleanor said...

Hirsh paid for making the work himself. We have only his word for how expensive it was. Supposedly the work sold to an anonymous person or persons who paid cash, leaving no paper trail. A lot of people in the art world believe this is bunk and the work has not sold.

For all we know, the diamonds may not be perfect. They may be zircons. So we have a combination of obscene expense and possible fraud. It's the art equivalent of the real estate bubble.

I wonder what happens when the tax guys show up and want their cut of 100 million dollars. Maybe he tells them it's performance art and there is no money.

Eleanor said...

In response to Timmi's remark, I think the Renaissance art is a combination of piety and vanity. By the time you get to works such as Versailles, the art is about power: Versailles was built to intiminate the nobility of France and foreign visitors. The Hirsh work is about money, which is power, but not the power of Louis XIV and Verseilles. It's power without any veneer of civlization, the power of a fist or the American invasion of Iraq: smash the infrastructure, rip open the museums and the archeological sites, end culture, leave nothing but a waste with oil.

I once asked my father why the official art of the 19th century was so bad. He said, "The bourgeoisie have no taste," which is not a profound answer. But it may be true.

My father had no politics, as far as I was able to tell. But he knew a lot about art.