Inverurie Eye

LONDON beckons for me this weekend writes Susann Brown, with a chance to revisit the stomping ground of my youth – the West End shops, theatre land and any number of art galleries too.

But it’s one gallery in particular that I’ll be heading for – the Tate Modern, to see the exhibition that is on everyone’s lips, the Damien Hirst retrospective.

Why? Well I guess it’s curiosity because I don’t really believe his work with dead animals will evoke any emotion except disgust, and the huge ashtray full of fag ends doesn’t really grab me, nor does the sausage in the baby’s bottle filled with alcohol. But then, I could be so wrong!

I’ve always been quite a fan of anything dotty and in childhood I was endlessly fascinated by the patterns created in my kaleidoscope, so will I be drawn to Hirst’s dots and spins I wonder, or even his prolific paintings of butterflies?

The truth is that I really don’t know, but I am looking forward to it immensely. I suppose the fascination begins with the man himself, supposedly the wealthiest artist on the planet? Artists are supposed to be poor aren’t they?

It appears that his success began with his first exhibition while still a student at Goldsmith’s College when he organised an exhibition entitled “Freeze” which was held in a warehouse and featured several of Hirst’s pieces as well as works by fellow students.

This self-promoted exhibition seems to have been the starting point for a new breed of artists and the ‘Young British Artists’ movement, and led to Hirst’s first collector.

While he is taken seriously as an artist by collectors and curators, the provocative nature of his work stimulates controversy, and while some do think Hirst was a worthy recipient of the Turner Prize in ‘95, others think contemporary conceptual art (con art) is not art at all.

A prominent curator, Julian Spalding, recently wrote to the Director of the Tate demanding that he justify the squandering of taxpayer’s money on the Damien Hirst retrospective because he claimed “Hirst’s works are not art”.

Spalding labelled the artist a “phony avant-garde” that should not be allowed to become “the establishment” and called for art collectors to get rid of his works before “the penny drops that these are not art”.

Phony or not, my question is whether the art lies in the concepts themselves, or the artist’s marketing skills - the ability to promote himself and court the media to create a cult following?

Personally, I can’t wait to find out and make up my own mind. But a £50m platinum and diamond encrusted sculpture costing £14m to create, and 18 months in the making, is surely worth a look.

I for one will make jolly sure I get to the Tate’s Turbine Hall to see for myself the piece entitled ‘For the Love of God’.