One of the enduring mysteries of the contemporary art market is to be solved later this year with the publication, due in the Autumn, of a catalogue listing all the spot paintings made by Damien Hirst since 1986.
All of the works produced will form a book jointly published by Other Criteria, the artist’s publishing company, in conjunction with Gagosian Gallery. The majority of the works in the 1,000-page catalogue will be illustrated with every single spot painting made listed.
It’s important to note that the catalogue is only taking into account the canvases produced. It’d be fair to say that nobody would fancy the task of charting every single work that features the ubiquitous Hirst ‘spot’ – edition or otherwise.
That said, collectors have long speculated about the number of spot canvases in circulation with estimates ranging from 2,000 to 7,000. Well, now, Hirst's London company, Science Ltd, has finally provided the answer: there are exactly 1,365 Hirst spot paintings.
Although James Kelly, the director of Science Ltd has stated the number will not remain fixed: “Damien is working on some spot paintings with very small spots, including a painting with one million spots, which will take a number of years to complete." So the figure will increase, but is that necessarily a bad thing.
It could transpire that the publication will actually increase confidence in the series because it will allay fears that the paintings are much more numerous than they actually are. The catalogue will display the series’ variety; the Spot Paintings are from being all the same.
Publications of work can also instil a heightened feeling of the joy of ownership. Generally, people love it when something they own is published and there is that joint aspect of not wanting to be left out of the club. Your taste is immortalised on the coffee table, justified by the time and effort taken to print a page featuring the painting you chose.
Naturally there are those observers who are more sceptical, spouting that the catalogue will emphasise Hirst’s overblown manufacturing process, but any arguments, pro or otherwise, quite simply fall firmly in the for and against camps of Hirst as an artist. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the catalogue is that it will highlight if there was one point in time when Hirst dramatically increased production of the spot paintings or whether he has always produced a constant stream.
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Image Credits: © Damien Hirst/ Science Ltd, 2012 Photography Prudence Cuming Associates
Damien Hirst, "The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986-2011," installation view at Gagosian Gallery, West 21st Street