29 Percent of Hirsts Are 'Spot' Paintings

And other facts from the irrepressible British artist

1342768071 29 Percent of Hirsts Are 'Spot' Paintings

Mr. Hirst. (Jennifer Graylock/Getty)

Damien Hirst sat down for an interview with The Los Angeles Times’ Jori Finkel about his upcoming 11-gallery show of his “Spot” paintings, and, happily, he proved to be as quotable as ever.

First, the basics: the shows open in January, and though we had imagined a whirlwind tour of the receptions at all 11 Gagosian branches by private jet (perhaps the one that critic Arthur Danto recently said that he used when being flown to lecture about Cy Twombly), he will attend one of the openings in New York.

About 300 works will be on view, half of which will be for sale. Mr. Hirst estimates his total output of spot paintings at 1,400, which represents about 29 percent of his total output of 4,800 pieces. (In 2008, London dealer Robert Sandelson repeated a rumor that were were just 800 such paintings, before adding, “I’m sure there are more than that.”)

That may sound like a lot of art, but Mr. Hirst has thought this through. “I know Warhol did 10,000 not including prints, and Picasso did 40,000,” he said. “So I have a way to go.”

Those who followed Mr. Hirst’s primary-market auction at Sotheby’s in 2008 may recall that the spot paintings are the one series that he seems addicted to, that he just can’t seem to quit.

“I was going to end the formaldehyde works, the spin paintings, the butterflies and the spot paintings,” he told Bloomberg back then. “But with the spot paintings, I’ve realized I’m doing 1 1/2 millimeter dots and one painting 7 foot-square will take me 20 years. So I figure I can do that for the rest of my life. … The spots are going to stay.”

And yes, Mr. Hirst has some gigantic pieces in the works. Writes Ms. Finkel:

“One new work that he says will be ready in time for his Gagosian shows: a canvas of about 12 by 16 inches, featuring 18,000 spots. Not yet ready: a painting he is planning with one million dots, and another with two million that he projects will take four assistants four and a half years to finish.”

Gallerist’s favorite moment comes when Mr. Hirst somehow strays onto the topic of quality. How, you wonder, does he judge a good work of art from a bad one? Here is the answer:

“You learn by doing, really. If I put a painting outside a bar at closing time, and it’s still there in the morning, it’s a crap painting. With spot paintings, wherever you leave them, people are going to take them out of the dumpsters. It’s an intrinsic thing that has nothing to do with how many you make.”

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