Stealing Crucified Sheep Is Ok, But Not When Damien Hirst Does It

09.08.10 Marina Galperina

Damien Hirst has been accused of plagiarism again – on 8 counts this month. Yeah, yeah, everybody steals. Let’s take an illustrated look at this recent mess and decide whether pickling something in formaldehyde or slapping a multimillion dollar price tag on it makes it original.

Above: John LeKay’s 1987 This Is My Body is a sheep carcass crucified on a board and Damien Hirst’s 2005 In the Name of the Father is a sheep carcass crucified in formaldehyde. Kind of the same thing, but one might smell better. Damien Hirst explains,

Lucky for me, when I went to art school we were a generation where we didn’t have any shame about stealing other people’s ideas. You call it a tribute.

Below: Here he is doing a “tribute” to John LeKay again. John LeKay’s 1993 Spiritus Callidus #2 is a crystal skull. Damien Hirst’s 2007 For the Love of God is a diamond-bejeweled skull (so expensive, he had to buy it himself). So, Damien Hirst openly borrows and says “Fuck ’em,” but then he whines when someone else does it?

To the right, actual tributes: Vladimir Anzelm’s Migrant Workers of the Soul coal skull and dir. Sam Brown’s black-diamond oil-marinated skull in Jay Z’s “On to the Next One” video. And that’s a-OK, in fact, excellent – because the concept is more than just a price tag.

What really makes Hirst a weasel isn’t that he is one of the world’s biggest art hustlers who sleeps on piles of money because he knows how to market his re-makes or that he’s selling lawn chairs and buttons for thousands. He’s lazy. Here he is selling replicas of cheap medical models and slides of cancer sells for millions. Guess which are art.

As for The Jackdaw‘s claim that he ripped off someone’s spin paintings, well… Sure, someone thought of it first, but isn’t it really a vintage genre of art now? Here’s Michel Gondry making some with Bjork, and he makes it his own. A-OK!

Don’t worry, artists. As long as you’re not huffing and puffing about getting called out on it and you’re not

(a) lazy
(b) a hypocrite
(c) Damien Hirst, because he’s (a), (b) and sells lawn chairs and buttons

…go ahead and borrow! Tribute on! Swede away! ‘Cause art is hard and you just can’t call dibs on crucified meat.

Francis Bacon doing it in 1946 and Joachim Beuckelaer in 1563.