Monday, February 12, 2007

The Scream of the Butterfly

Art lovers in the know are yawing over the news that postmodern art superstar, Damien Hirst, will exhibit his latest "paintings" at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, California, starting this February 22nd. Hirst will not be showing his usual menagerie of pickled animals in formaldehyde, or paint by numbers photorealist paintings created by his assistants - he’s moved on to loftier expressions. These days he pays a workforce to construct geometric pictorial designs composed entirely out of butterfly wings - an endeavor that would otherwise be considered a hobbyist’s passion, save for the fact that it’s directed by one of the richest and most influential artists in the world. Hirst does not of course do any of the actual work involved in assembling the paintings, he just takes all the credit - and most of the money.

Superstition is the title of Hirst’s collection of butterfly wing craftwork. The Gagosian Gallery press release states that the artist "expands on the iconic motif of the butterfly as a symbol of the beauty and inherent fragility of life, reaching new heights of complexity, refined detail and radiance.(….) Hirst creates paintings whose classical shapes and compositions take their inspiration from stained glass church windows." That’s an impressive public relations pitch - especially for objects that are not paintings. Hopeless followers of fashion who are easily wowed, like the gaggle of voguish trendies over at L.A.’s SuperTouch web log, burble effusively over the arrival of Hirst, "Assembled by Hirst and a team of tireless assistants, the works are truly a wonder to behold & certain to distress animal lovers everywhere (expect PETA to attend)." Aside from the obvious fact that art reviews should not be written by those who think butterflies are animals, let’s not kid ourselves about the taste of those who promote, or see worth in, the utterly inane, vacant, and exploitative works of a quack like Hirst.

Butterfly wing art from Hirst
[ ABOVE - Detail of a Hirst Butterfly wing collage at Gagosian Gallery. These types of works from Hirst have previously sold at prices ranging from $700,000 to $1,000,000. But if you are really interested in a nice, affordable, framed butterfly wing "painting" to hang above the living room couch, why not consider the craftworks from (BELOW), their designs are superior and at only $1,500 per painting, you can build a collection to rival that of any art snob. ]
Butterfly wing art from

In an article published in the New Republic and titled, What money is doing to art, or how the art world lost its mind: Laissez-Faire Aesthetics, art critic Jed Perl put his finger on the problem regarding the likes of Hirst and Gagosian Gallery, when he wrote:
"A great shift has occurred. This has deep and complex origins; but when you come right down to it, the attitude is almost astonishingly easy to grasp. We have entered the age of laissez-faire aesthetics. The people who are buying and selling the most highly priced contemporary art right now - think of them as the laissez-faire aesthetes - believe that any experience that anyone can have with a work of art is equal to any other. (….) The big galleries don't do shows anymore, they do coronations and requiems. Larry Gagosian has perfected this style. (….) - the corruption is almost unbearable."

Seeing as how the average Hirst butterfly wing collage has a starting price of around half a million dollars, most art collectors not in the billionaires club may become a little discouraged, but don’t worry - you can still afford your own butterfly wing painting! By cutting out the middleman - the useless good-for-nothing otherwise known as the "blue-chip artist" - you can purchase, for only $1,500, a beautiful framed piece directly from the craftpersons who constructed it. The good people at, construct butterfly wing paintings in abstract geometric shapes, and in sizes up to 48 by 32 inches - and all of the wings come from "non-endangered butterflies that are raised on Butterfly Farms in rainforest areas of South and Central America" - a guarantee not being made by Hirst and Gagosian Gallery.