Great!, Damien has produced 1400, and counting, versions of the same painting. In my book they should be counted as one and as 1400 separate instances of art. Contradictory? Not realy if the ‘one’ happens to contain all instances. This also means that all versions are a ‘throw of the dice’ or a simulation? or manifestation of a singular conceptual ‘proposition’, to quote Kosuth. They just happen to be separated in time and space. Does that matter? What I like about it is that there is and never will be ‘The Complete Works’, and no one can own ‘The Complete Works’ because the singular conceptual ‘proposition’ is not owned by anyone, no matter what Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. is telling us. 1400 is just the start Damien, let’s make that 14 million.
Investor confidence is the key to understanding the unprecedented Gagosian show of Hirst’s spot paintings. Hirst’s atelier has been turning these out at every scale since 1986, and by the artist’s own estimate there are around 1,400 in existence, of which Gagosian was showing 300 under the faux-definitive title The Complete Spot Paintings. They are made by Hirst’s assistants to a simple aesthetic rule – the colour sequences of the dots must be “random”. The paintings are given the names of drugs: Amphotericin B, Cocaine Hydrochloride, Morphine Sulphate, Butulinium Toxin A, and so on. Many of them are technically difficult to execute, such as the piece completed for the Gagosian show that comprises 25,781 one millimetre spots that the poor bloody assistants had to paint without repeating any single colour. Examples have sold at recent auctions for between $800,000 and $3m. This is to say that they are valued like unique, individual works of art, yet are made in quantities – and using methods – that seem to deny this fiction. Thus one could make the case that they are significantly overvalued. Cue alarm in a lot of penthouse living rooms.