Damien Hirst: the capitalism sublime?

Conference paper


White, L. 2012. Damien Hirst: the capitalism sublime? Marxism in Culture. Institute of Historical Research, University College London 01 Jun 2012
TypeConference paper
TitleDamien Hirst: the capitalism sublime?
AuthorsWhite, L.
Abstract

Damien Hirst is perhaps the apotheosis of the capitalist artist. He is also a figure – in the bare objective terms of his economic and institutional success – who demands close attention as a cultural phenomenon: not, perhaps, an exemplary artist for our era, but certainly a deeply symptomatic and significant one. He is also a cultural producer who, whatever we may feel about his ethos, at his rare best has provided us with some of the art world’s most memorable images of recent decades. The question remains, then, of what it is in such images that has made them ones in which our society has consented to recognise its own image.
To address such an issue, this paper makes an analysis of Hirst’s place within a long line of cultural producers who have been involved with the commercialised and commodified instantiations of art oriented to the sublime, a lineage stretching back to the modern (re-)discovery of this aesthetic in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It proposes that the sublime has been an aesthetic profoundly implicated in the rise of capital, and is intimately intertwined, in particular, with its highly liquid and hypertrophic ‘imperialist’ forms that characterise both the contemporary Neoliberal climate (of which Hirst might be imagined to be the court painter) and the eighteenth century alike. It seeks to define a Hirstean or capitalist sublime in which the fantasies of the modern, capitalist subject and its structuring experiences in the social and economic are reflected, formed and negotiated.

KeywordsDamien Hirst; sublime; capitalism and art; contemporary art; yBa; modernity; commodification of culture; imperialism
Research GroupDiasporas
Visual Culture and Curating cluster
LanguageEnglish
ConferenceMarxism in Culture
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Dec 2013
Output statusPublished
Additional information

This was a 45-minute paper (followed by discussion) presented by invitation at the fortnightly Open Seminar on 'Marxism in Culture' at the Institute of Historical Research, London. At the event Luke White was the sole speaker. The paper drew on his PhD work on Damien Hirst.

Web address (URL)http://www.marxisminculture.org/?p=209
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