$15.7m Hirst sale defies the critics

Damien Hirst's latest exhibition of paintings, entitled Nothing Matters - a second collection of oils painted by Hirst himself rather than his assistants - might as well be called 'Critics Don't Matter'.

When his similar collection, The Blue Paintings, appeared at the prestigious Wallace gallery last month, it attracted universal derision from reviewers.

Nevertheless, five works from Nothing Matters have sold before the show has even opened - the most expensive for $15.7m.

The works are of a similar standard to his "shockingly bad" Blue Paintings - quote: London's The Times newspaper - with many critics highlighting their derivative Francis Bacon influence.

However, Bloomberg's art reviewer describes Nothing Matters, exhibited at the White Cube in London, as "less pastiche-like and more competent looking... less full of Baconian borrowings.

"If Hirst sticks with this painting business for another decade or two, he might get somewhere."

The reviewer also points out that a famous artist exhibiting dodgy pictures is nothing new, and that the backlash may also be due to Hirst's over-reliance on his own celebrity.

To some Hirst - who enjoyed a highly-lucrative sale of his artworks at Sotheby's on the day that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. went bust - represents a high-rolling era which is loathed by many.

With Hirst's Pop Life exhibition at the Tate Modern also garnering mixed reviews, some commentators are wondering whether his reputation is on the slide.

For now, Hirst himself apparently remains defiant and, judging by the high prices that his work still attracts, art collectors are still fighting his corner.

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