In Depth

Damien Hirst's Two Weeks One Summer is like 'dictator art'

'Last time I saw paintings as deluded as this, the artist was Saif al-Islam Gaddafi,' says one critic

DAMIEN HIRST'S latest exhibition – including 37 paintings of parrots, butterflies and cherry blossom – has left critics begging him to put away his paint brush. Damien Hirst: Two Weeks One Summer opened today at the White Cube in Bermondsey, not far away from his first major retrospective exhibition at the Tate Modern, which received glowing reviews when it opened in April. Faced with such a large collection of paintings, critics have called into question Hirst's abilities to impress on canvas alone. "The last time I saw paintings as deluded as Damien Hirst's latest works, the artist's name was Saif al-Islam Gaddafi," said The Guardian's Jonathan Jones, a self-confessed "long-time admirer" of Hirst. He compares his latest work to the art of dictators who are utterly surrounded by 'yes-people'. "This is the kind of kitsch that is foisted on helpless peoples by Neros and Hitlers and such tyrants so beyond normal restraint or criticism they believe they are artists." At their best, Jones says, the paintings "lack the skill of thousands of amateur artists who paint at weekends all over Britain". He confesses that he had to stop himself from laughing or swearing out loud while walking around the gallery. "The exercise feels like a parody of being an art critic, for these are humourless parodies of paintings," he says, and offers the artist some honest advice: "Seriously – Mr Hirst – I am talking to you. It seems you have no one around you to say this: stop, now. Shut up the shed." But will Hirst, who with an estimated wealth of $320m is thought to be the world's most commercially valuable living artist, take note? He is no stranger to derision. Critics described Hirst's 2009 Wallace Collection exhibition as "shockingly bad" and "derivative", while eminent artist David Hockney attacked him last year for his over-use of assistants to create his artworks. Hirst has batted off criticism, insisting that as long as critics "spell his name right" he doesn't mind what they say. "It's always healthy to have both views," he told Reuters last month. "People love it, people hate it." But it seems that Two Weeks One Summer has failed to elicit a solitary positive response. What causes the deepest disappointment for Nancy Durrant at The Times is that "this work, from one of our most theatrical of artists, is boring". She adds: "The paintings carry no weight, have no atmosphere, inspire nothing - not even strong dislike. An artwork, whether it be a painting or a sculpture, should cause some lasting shift in your equilibrium. I'm not sure leaving a bit depressed counts."

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