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bin Laden as Christ and Hirst as Artist

Among the 500 entries for the Blake Prize for Religious Art in Australia are a painting depicting Osama bin Laden as Jesus Christ and a statue of the Virgin Mary covered in a blue burqa familiar to Afghani women that … Read More

By / August 30, 2007

Among the 500 entries for the Blake Prize for Religious Art in Australia are a painting depicting Osama bin Laden as Jesus Christ and a statue of the Virgin Mary covered in a blue burqa familiar to Afghani women that lived under the Taliban. The outrage and the debate—if you can call it that—is predictably stale, because the anti- side if reflexively offended but also because the art itself isn’t good. I don’t know how some artists get away with claiming provocativeness to be the supreme goal of art, especially since—by these standards, at least—anyone out of ideas and marginally shameless can be provocative. If you’re going to get people talking, you should be able to answer them. Otherwise, stun their sleeping asses into woken silence. Also: how is this “religious art”?

Damien Hirst, the obscenely rich and famous British artist, is more complicated. His diamond-encrusted platinum skull was sold today for US $ 10 million. If you’ve ever seen Hirst speak, or even read what he’s said, it’s clear that he’s a performance artist, that the man’s responses to the (eagerly awaited) criticisms of his art are as much a part of the art, more so, even, than the inanimate spectacles themselves. The art never stops, and Hirst is clearly calculating, if not always consciously. The fact that richer he gets the better an artist he becomes is, as far as I can tell, a new one for history. Worse, weirder, is that if you try to protest, you add to it. 

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