Hirst paintings given the thumbs-down

As we reported recently, artist Damien Hirst's famous works are starting to be valued highly again after a year of selling at more conservative prices.

At the same time, Hirst has been experimenting with a radical idea: painting.

Hirst's new works, The Blue Paintings, have been exhibited in The Wallace. The gallery is a deliberately provocative choice as it is generally better known for its classic, even conservative, selection of works.

In other words, Tracey Emin's bed has never graced its halls.

No formaldehyde has been used in Hirst's new paintings. But familiar themes are present - especially death, with skulls and sets of sharks' teeth featured in the works.

However, the critics have not been impressed, and have compared Hirst unfavourably to his acknowledged influence Francis Bacon.

London's Times newspaper was particularly sharp, stating flatly that Hirst's works have no business being in the same building as the Old Masters, even describing the whole show as "shockingly bad".

The Daily Telegraph was a little kinder, suggesting that the works have "impact as a group" but lack detail and don't stand up to too much scrutiny.

The bad reviews may not surprise Hirst very much. He doesn't rate his own painting abilities too highly - although apparently highly enough to hang his works in a gallery more used to Titian and Rembrandt.  

For now, the question remains whether the negative press will turn collectors and investors away from the works. Perhaps.

Although it is worth remembering that Hirst's early works were not initially welcomed by conventional artists, but eventually came to be valued by the market after attracting Charles Saatchi.

In all likelihood, a collector who likes Hirst's themes - or thinks that someone else will - is unlikely to be put off by bad reviews.

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