Monday, June 04, 2007

All that glisters ...

For the love of gold seems a more apt description of Damien Hurst's latest work. I'll refrain from calling "For the love of God" a work of art yet, though it does show technical skill and does question what is art? Why refrain? Well, I find this idol to mammon currently on sale for some £50 million somewhat ethically disturbing. I would find it difficult to describe a montage of video torture as art because it does nothing to improve the greater common good. The ends do no always justify the means.

Purpose and means has always been an important part of art for me.

Damien's idol would appear to be a celebration of materialism over all else and as such it can be argued that it questions our relationship with wealth? But does it? Surely the purchasing of such a gaudy item, the material cost of which could instead save thousands of real lives just reinforces our celebration of wealth over life? Does this serve the greater common good? Well in my opinion it debases it. As such it is not good art, and therefore not art in my books.

However, in all such things there is always a sting in the "tale".

The funds raised from selling this idol could be used to save real lives - greed turned into need - a sort of "For the love of Gold". Allowing a montage of real lives saved because of one buyer's desire for a macabre bauble. This creates a virtuous circle which truly explores the relationship between wealth and life, in a way that this gilded "sepulcher" sold commercially for profit could never do.

Maybe Damien is planning something like this, a next step. Maybe the exclamation mark is not the end of the story but just the end of one chapter?

What's worth more a montage or the bauble? This does question our relationship between wealth and life.

So to me, it all depends upon on the real purpose of this work - Damien maybe planning, what I would consider to be, one of the greatest pieces of conceptual art this century and exposing us to these searching questions or it may just turn out to be an expensive trinket which says more about the purchaser than anything else. I'm more than a little curious about which way he takes this.

That's the thing about art ... all that glisters is not gold ... sometimes it's an idea.