Damien Hirst, or what it means to be an artist

So, I went to the Damien Hirst retrospective at the Tate. Many thanks to my lovely cousin. Next time, we’ll also Tate Britain, I promise.
On the escalator I casually pointed out to Darling Boyfriend that David Hockney and Damien Hirst were mentioned on the wall as sponsors of the museum. Which amused us tremendously.
The retrospective covers the basic themes of his work, the dots, the prepared animals, the medicine cabinets and the butterflies.
Boyfriend mutters that it’s Not Okay that an artist is rich, as a workshop that houses an extra shark without trouble, and has assistants do his work. Just like Rembrandt, I retort, though quietly wondering if it was indeed Rembrandt. I ask if he’d rather have a poor artist who can’t produce as much work as he comes up with because he lacks the resources. Boyfriend looks at me as if I’m a weirdo.
Boyfriend has a bit of a shark fetish, so he was rather smitten with the sharks. I rather liked the commentary on the performance of medicine. But most of his work makes me smile a little, or even laugh out loud. ‘I see what you did there’, in internet speak. Because I understand what he is doing. I understand the imagery. I get it. It’s funny or or not, it’s relevant or not. But I understand.
Which is nice and all, but it’s not enough to make it great. When art is absolutely great, it leaves me speechless, unable to articulate what it is about the work that moves me, hits me. It’s a physical experience, not a cognitive one.
I had that visceral response only to his butterfly paintings. I find them… moving. And I don’t know why.
Which is exactly how it should be.

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