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Monday, February 18, 2013

Bio-Art: Away from the Flock (Divided).

There is a phrase called "starving artist." To make a lot of money, artists have to keep doing controversial things. When the controversial becomes expected, however, is it still controversial? Apparently so. After all, people with way too much time and money on their hands pay millions for art like this:

Pic from trash.nonoo.hu.


Damien Hirst has done it again: he has dunked an animal in formaldehyde and called it art. "Away From the Flock (Divided)" features a bisected lamb split between two tanks. One of Hirst's other works, "Mother and Child (Divided)", has a similar theme. Nonetheless, the split sheep remains a trademark of Damien Hirst's style. It was sold at a Christie's auction for 3.3 million dollars, but was expected to hit 3.8. That's a lot of preserved mutton.

Just to be clear, I am aware that there is some skill present in this piece and others like it. It can't be easy to bisect a lamb that neatly. It also can't be easy to put both halves in formaldehyde without spilling lamb entrails everywhere. These, I will admit, qualify as art. Whether it is worth millions and worth replacing (even preserved animals don't last forever) is another issue entirely.

Hirst's logic for splitting a lamb in two and dunking both halves in formaldehyde? It's a statement about God.  There are a tons of lines calling humans God's little sheep, which becomes more disturbing the more you think about it. If you want to extend the metaphor, the split sheep could represent a religious schism. It really is just a matter of perspective. One man's bisected lamb is another man's religious statement.

But can Hirst keep up the shock value? If the difference between the projected price and the actual price is any indication, the demand has gone down for Hirst's work.Eventually, putting dead animals in glass and calling it art is not going to work anymore. Yes, it's cool to have a style, but shock pieces get old after a while. Animal in a tank? We've seen that before. Next?

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