Damien Who?

From the Times:

But, at first, the thought of painting in this Photo Realist manner intimidated him. When he began in earnest about three and a half years ago, he realized why.
“I started out airbrushing,” he said. “But the images looked flat, dead. For two years I didn’t think it was going to work.” Finally, he said, he disciplined himself to represent each image faithfully by hand.
Still, he doesn’t consider himself a serious painter. “I would feel uncomfortable putting myself in a category with other painters like Goya or Bacon,” he said. “I’m more interested in the images than the painting.”

From Linda Yablonsky on Artforum.com:

Though many guests made the connection, Hirst may have thought he was avoiding comparisons to Jeff Koons by ordering hired hands to paint each piece in this chilling body of work rather badly. (One assistant was reportedly fired for painting too well.)

But I hope he didn’t think he was avoiding comparisons to another Damien who makes paintings “in photo-realist style from pictures in magazines and print ads”: Damien Loeb.
But my favorite quote from Yablonsky captures a whole swath of the art world’s, “I’m here, so it must be important” sense of audacious self-consciousness, without a hint of self-awareness:

At these prices [up to $2mm] it’s difficult to understand how paintings that are not going to get any better with time can continue to acquire value. Though truth be elusive, let’s just say that that is exactly Hirst’s point: to empty art of meaning. In a market where money is so disposable, how can art transcend mere currency to become more than just a brand? If this is indeed Hirst’s message, then he has issued a galling challenge to every other living artist. It will be interesting to see who takes it up.

Or not. Because it’s not like anyone’s ever paid more than $2 million for a painting before, or even for a Hirst.
As some smart aleck said in the NY Times, “Just because you’ve spent a lot of time and money on something doesn’t mean it’s very good.”
Taste for the Macabre but No Pickled Sharks [nyt]
High and Dry, Linda Yablonsky [artforum.com]