Damien Hirst...Beautiful Inside My Head Forever

As early as 1996, Damien Hirst's work drew the kind of collector's attention that earned 6 figures. Today, the world economy fails in an era of toxic mortgages and government bailouts, yet art world aficionados and financiers (who else has the cash?) line up for "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" Damien Hirst's novel debut solo exhibition consigned for auction at Sotheby's held about 200 works that brought in whopping sales of $43, 316,574 (actually, someone at the Financial Times estimated Hirst's net at nearly $200 million). And voilà! The vanguard of emerging artists for fame and gain is Damien Hirst, past winner of the Turner Prize, and the most prominent of the Young British Artists (YBAs).

Hirst's works are fantastic (truly), decadent (sine qua non), fascinating (hypnotic, even), and illative of a remorseless, pointed and wicked intellect. His absorption with death and decadence - manifested by choice of subject and use of materials, constant playfully bright schemes, that make light of dark ideas that are themselves excessive, in concept and execution, and consequential work - become visual puns, fodder for common humor. Mentored by Charles Saatchi, the art collector's collector (a god, in his own art world right, maybe), Hirst's future, you might say, was as assured as if he'd been born with a silver spoon (just look at that chart, above).

So why are we writing about this artist? Yes, his concepts are bizarre, his works are many things to many people, but most importantly, for the obviously privileged and rarefied few who fell in step to the Sotheby's hammer on 16 September, Hirst's works are immensely, and profitably, collectible!

(Image: Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1992. Tiger shark, glass, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution; 213 x 518 cm., Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)


Art Collector 101: Definitions - Sculpture

Someone dropped this note in my email box this morning about the future of video. Considering it was written by YouTube head honcho Chad Hurley, I read it, and am passing it on to you. Yes, it's a little dry (honestly, it's pretty dry), but it's good to hear there is life in video. (The image on the right is from Scott Kiernan's video, Standing Wave, 2007.)

How does video relate to sculpture? Yes, well, buckle-up, here's today's wikipedia definition for sculpture: three-dimensional artwork created by shaping hard or plastic material, commonly stone (either rock or marble), metal, or wood. Some sculptures are created directly by carving; others are assembled, built up and fired, welded, molded, or cast. A person who creates sculptures is called a sculptor. Because sculpture involves the use of materials that can be moulded or modulated, it is considered one of the plastic arts. The majority of public art is sculpture. The definition goes on to describe types of sculpture:
Materials used for sculpture have generally, and historically, been sought to produce works of art as permanent as possible, working in durable and frequently expensive materials such as bronze and stone: marble, limestone, porphyry, and granite. More rarely, precious materials such as gold, silver, jade, and ivory were used for chryselephantine works. More common and less expensive materials were used for sculpture for wider consumption, including hardwoodsoak, box/boxwood, and lime/linden); terra cotta and other ceramics, and cast metals such as pewter and zinc (spelter).

Many sculptors seek new ways and materials to make art. Jim Gary used stained glass and automobile parts, tools, machine parts, and hardware. One of Pablo Picasso's most famous sculptures included bicycle parts. Alexander Calder and other modernists made spectacular use of painted steel. Since the 1960s, acrylics and other plastics have been used as well. Andy Goldsworthy makes his unusually ephemeral sculptures from almost entirely natural materials in natural settings. Some sculpture, such as ice sculpture, sand sculpture, and gas sculpture, is deliberately short-lived. (image, right, Mark Abildgaard, Twister, 2008, detail. Cast + sandblasted glass, stainless steel)

Sculptors often build small preliminary works called maquettes of ephemeral materials such as plaster of Paris, wax, clay, or plasticine, as Alfred Gilbert did for 'Eros' at Piccadilly Circus, London. In Retroarchaeology, these materials are generally the end product.

In contemporary terms, modern sculpture forms are now practiced outdoors, and often in full view of spectators, thus giving them kinship to performance art in the eyes of some. Ice sculpture is a form of sculpture that uses ice as the raw material. It's popular in China, Japan, Canada, Sweden, and Russia. Ice sculptures feature decoratively in some cuisines, especially in Asia. Kinetic sculptures are sculptures that are designed to move, which include Mobiles. Snow sculptures are usually carved out of a single block of snow about 6 to 15 feet (4.6 m) on each side and weighing about 20 - 30 tons. The snow is densely packed into a form after having been produced by artificial means or collected from the ground after a snowfall. Sound sculptures take the form of indoor sound installations, outdoor installations such as aeolian harps, automatons, or be more or less near conventional musical instruments. Sound sculpture is often site-specific. A Sand castle can be regarded as a sand sculpture. Weightless Sculpture (in outer space) as a concept is created in 1985 by the Dutch artist Martin Sjardijn. Lego brick sculpting involves the use of common Lego bricks to build realistic or artistic sculptures sometimes using hundreds of thousands of bricks. (image, right, Jonathan Russell, Pendants, 2005. Copper, bronze, stainless steel)

Hi...you made it this far. Relax. We'll discuss editions in another post!


Art Collector 101: Definitions

The next posts will define general terms of fine art, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography + video, figurative/representational art and abstract/non-representational art.

Fine art, as defined by Wikipedia, is any art
developed primarily for forms, including formaesthetics rather than utility.[1] This type of art is often expressed in a limited number of visual and performing artpainting, sculpture, dance, theatre, architecture and printmaking. Schools, institutes, and other organizations still use the term to indicate a traditional perspective on the art forms, often implying an association with classic or academic art.

I know, using Wikipedia for a definition seems too easy...the problem is there is so much information out there, and the idea here, is just to give you a general idea. Write to me if you'd like more. By the way, did you hear about the Goya print stolen from Bogota? The stolen artwork was a priceless engraving on view for public exhibition (image above credit: AFP/File photo). It is described as priceless for its extreme rarity.


The Logan Collection

Well, I thought I was done with my short note on the Logan Collection at the SFMOMA yesterday...nope. First, I need to credit the image of the artwork in yesterday's post, below, it's "The Sleep of Reason," 2005, by Sui Jianguo, mixed media installation view. Photo: Courtesy of SFMOMA. Second, I want to let you know I received a quick email from one of the publishers at Art Ltd. Magazine about an article, "Pacific Overtures: Influential Curators of Asian Art," by Scarlett Cheng in this month's issue. Well done, Ms. Cheng!

Read it!


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - Logan Collection

If you live in a world class city, what would you do on a sunny weekend? What does that have to do with your fine art collection? Who wants to know and why...? I visited the Logan Collection exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Wow. I grew up in the Philippines, and during my childhood visited important museums in Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong, so I tend to have a blase attitude when it comes to Asian art, particularly when collected by non-Asians. Please don't misunderstand, I love Asian art, I love the aesthetic, but I'm Eurasian and grew up around non-Asian collectors who professed a love of all things Asian, only to be disappointed by their so-called collections.

The Logan Collection is a wonderful surprise. Tasteful (well, I guess that depends on one's taste, huh?), thoughtful and carefully selected, the SFMOMA wrote that the works reveal "a spectrum of individual responses to the utopian dreams that have been driving Chinese society since 1949. Approximately 50 paintings, sculptures, and installations spanning 1988 to 2008 convey a sense of the shadows, masks, and monsters that have haunted the China's collective psyche during its process of modernization. The exhibition offers insight into the post-Tiananmen Square art and cultural scene, and features a diverse range of artists, including Ai Weiwei, Fang Lijun, Li Songsong, Liu Hung, Liu Xiaodong, Yu Youhan, Zhang Huan, and Zhang Xiaogang." The exhibition is ongoing now through Sunday, October 5, 2008.

Please GO.