Julian Bell has written one of the most coherent and persuasive commentaries on the work of Damien Hirst, in The New York Review of Books. Also, Mr. Hirst’s famous pickled shark piece is featured prominently on the paper’s cover.
Mr. Bell approaches Mr. Hirst’s retrospective show at the Tate Modern by asking himself what he calls the “default question about art”: “Do [the works] feel interesting?” He derives this approach from Donald Judd’s 1965 statement that “a work only needs to be interesting” (Mr. Bell, perhaps appropriately, places Mr. Hirst’s early work in a lineage with the Minimalism of Judd). He writes:
An imposing professionalism dominates. The mind’s eye, or the mind’s hand, may come away rebuffed by the long shiny expanses of glass, gloss, and steel. Resistant also, perhaps: you might complain that just as living creatures belong in zoos, not galleries, executive attitudes belong in business and government, not in artists’ studios. But I think you would be clinging too hard to your sense of decorum.
For whatever excitement existed in the artist’s work when he first burst on the scene, Mr. Bell ultimately believes that now, Mr. Hirst “has opted to persist obstinately in pursuing intuitions glimpsed back in his youth.”
Read the entire piece here (while you’re at it, the NYRB also has an excellent essay by Darryl Pinckney on the concept of Post-Blackness and black identity, which is illustrated by the Kehinde Wiley painting The Virgin Martyr St. Cecilia).