Damien Hirst – The Rijksmuseum – and the Ultimate Bling

December 11, 2008 in Art Establishment, Galleries Museums, Travel by Leo

Damian Hirst - For the Love of God

Damien Hirst – For the Love of God

I came to Amsterdam for the Dreamscapes exhibition. With a few hours to spare before the opening, where I would be viewing modern painting masters, I would pay a visit to the Rijksmuseum and see some of the Old Masters.

Much to my surprise and disappointment, I found the entrance dominated by Damien Hirst and a queue. I don’t ever recall having to queue for the Rijksmuseum. The queue was one of those artifical queues you see often see in front of those superficial night clubs, that rate style above substance, continually keeping a queue of people outside for “security” reasons, while also again putting appearance before all else, fabricating a false sense of exclusitivity and popularity.

I made my way about the museum looking at all of the fine artwork and historical museum pieces, until I came across another queue. This time inside the museum, people queued for the special room where Hirst’s diamond skull was on display.

Hirst’s skull is suposedly the world’s most expensive artwork, but this is rather suspect, when you consider that he bought it back from himself. Stranger still, according to the Guardian, up to twenty workers who make his works will not have their contracts renewed even though Hirst’s gallery breaking auction earned him 130 million euro at Sotheby’s in September. Nevertheless, about half his London-based staff were told this week that their contracts will not be renewed.

“It was unexpected, especially after Hirst made a killing from the Sotheby’s sale”, a source told the Guardian.

Whether sacking staff will have much of an impact on the financial health of Hirst’s art-producing company is unclear. The workers are said to be paid only £19,000 (22,600 euro) a year. That amount pales in comparison with the prices paid for works by Hirst.

While I was curious to see Hirst’s ultimate bling, the queue looked rather dismal as well as the prospect of participating in the hype. The Netherlands have been inundated by the propaganda. It seems that not all are sold on the fanfare, especially amoungst some of the Dutch museums competing against the Hirst Rijksmuseum media machine.

Why was Hirst on display in the Rijksmuseum in the first place? Perhaps they were taken in by his comment earlier this year that he, Damien Hirst is like Rembrandt, and so promptly put him on display in the room next to “The Night Watch”.

I circumnavigated the clot of people ignoring the art about them waiting to be admitted into Hirst’s sanctum of superficiality and progressed to the next room. Superficial is the catch phrase here, as superficially the room appeared to be a continuation of museum’s permanent collection. However this was the curator’s attempt to make some relevance with Hirst’s bling by allowing him to select from their collection at his whim. Hello? What is the curator being paid to do?

Hirst seems to be astutely aware of this also, as he seized upon the opportunity presented by curator for him to make any inane comment he desires regarding the artwork he’s selected from Rijksmuseum collection. Is not the curator embaressed, or do they find him so witty? It would seem to be that Hirst is at his provocative best insulting the museum and its curator bald faced, and have them love it. “I will tell you are fools, and have you agree and tell me how genius I am for telling you so.” This is the same tactic with his artwork.

Before finally departing the Rijksmuseum shaking my head, I made a last stop by the Hirst space setup in the garden. Here you can buy all manner of diamond skull merchandise, and if you feel so inclined, leave your comments about the exhibition. Perhaps the museum, was being cautious and testing the waters. Perhaps they weren’t really so confident about their display. Why else ask for visitor feedback?

I left my comments, asking why they feel the need to copy all of the other museums. As a museum for Dutch cultural heiratage, this made them unique. As museum of modern “block buster” exhibitions, they are like all of the other me too Mc Donalds museums francised across the world.