Damien Hirst attacked by Robert Hughes

LAST UPDATED AT 10:01 ON Mon 8 Sep 2008

Not everyone is queuing up to join the adulatory hoopla surrounding Damien Hirst's Sotheby's extravaganza next week. Step forward Robert Hughes, the revered art critic, who has fiercely condemned the British artist for "functioning like a commercial brand" and destroying any true understanding of art in the public's mind by placing importance on the price tag alone.

Australian-born Hughes offers his critique in a Channel 4 "art essay" to be broadcast a week after the gavel comes down on the last of Hirst's art works at Sotheby's on September 16. In it, he describes the artist's most famous work, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living - a shark pickled in formaldehyde - as "the world's most over-rated marine organism", adding: "It is a clever piece of marketing, but as a piece of art it is absurd." The said shark was sold for £8m in 2004.

Hughes, 70, is a big-hitter in the art world and his views will be taken seriously. His acclaimed book The Shock of the New made the theories behind modernism in art accessible to a wider audience when it was published in 1980. For many years he was Time magazine's highly influential art critic.

In the documentary, Hughes claims that the huge sums now regularly paid out by collectors at auctions, placing the lots out of the reach of public galleries, mean that art itself has been redefined. The works, he suggests, are now like film stars.

Hughes's views have found a sympathetic ear in Grayson Perry, the Turner prize-winning potter. He said: "His [Hirst's] work has always been largely about money: I fear his accountant has become his most influential artistic adviser." · 

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