Damien Hirst’s Charitable Endeavours

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From February 8th 2014, Damien Hirst’s Mickey will officially be on view to the public as part of Christie’s auction presale; a piece placing him within the illustrious company of Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein as a re-creator of Disney’s most decorated character. For a man whose previous works have each individually stood in the millions in terms of market value, the question must be posed; is he doing more than enough for charitable causes? Or perhaps the individual, not immediately associated with do-good deeds, should be contributing more.

Controversy and evaluation has followed Hirst throughout the entirety of his artistic career, from his wild selections of deceased animals to form abstractions, to his vast array of world-renowned polka-dot ensembles. You wouldn’t be blamed for perhaps thinking that a man who has forever come under such questioning about his artistic approach and seemingly brash attitude during interview would not excessively go out of his way to aid the plight of others; nevertheless, you would be wrong.

The world of art stems from an assortment of principles of not only creating beautiful things to derive aesthetic pleasure from, but additionally to share and celebrate these things – ultimately giving something back to society and the world itself. The charitable endeavours of Hirst can certainly be seen to ring in accordance with this, with the artist previously offering his services to and/or financially supporting a wide spectrum of charities ranging from Livestrong, Great Ormond Street Hospital and WarChild, to Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Silverlake Conservatory of Music.  Regardless of opinion on the artist himself, it cannot be said that Hirst fails to throw his weight about on the charity scene, having become a long term ambassador to specific causes alongside the decorated names of Bono, Paul McCartney and Johnny Depp.

Hirst, who came under public scrutiny for his dismissive attitude surrounding his employment of assembly lines of thousands to produce his iconic grids of colour and polka-dot specialities, perhaps finds the negative eye hard to avoid. Back in 2008, world renowned art critic Robert Hughes himself promoted his view of ‘extreme disproportion between Hirst’s expected prices and his actual talent’ in regards to the artists work. Nevertheless, it is these very polka-dots which bear the core inspiration behind ‘Mickey’, strategically arranged with creative touch in order to immortalise Walt Disney’s most famous character in a very Hirst type fashion.

The main issue of many speculating Hirst however, is a refusal to accept the complexities involved within the production of his iconic spotted ‘Caproaldehyde’ patterns. With some works selling for tens of thousands for what is often perceived as minimal effort, as highlighted with the instance of assembly line production, it appears justified to perhaps suggest that Hirst could carry out these charitable deeds of work-auctioning much more frequently. On the other hand, for passionate art collectors and those truly appreciative of the work of Hirst, mass production of the artist’s work for charitable purposes would severely diminish the prestige of his work; the novelty and status of owning a Hirst would simply be gone.

Damien Hirst will never universally appeal to everyone and will forever create divides within the art world – this much is true. That being said however, it is for this reason itself as to why Hirst is as globally recognised as he is. A figure who has been ever enthralled in the media’s attention throughout his career, the spotlight now involuntary appears to fall upon him through false of habit. Figures speak for themselves however, and it cannot be disputed that Hirst, regardless of his public persona, has certainly heavily implemented himself in charitable work throughout the years. As the hammer goes down in the Christie’s auction room and ‘Mickey’ departs to the highest bidder, the smiles of those at the Kids Company will likely be matched by one on the face of Hirst himself, as another masterpiece enters the world in the altruistic aid of others.