Something Very Interesting Is Happening Over at Damien Hirst’s Instagram

Hirst is looking for a more direct connection with his fans.

Damien Hirst in 2012. Photo: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images.

Notice something different about Damien Hirst’s Instagram feed lately?

The @damienhirst account used to be pretty obviously manned by staff. Which makes some sense: Hirst, one of the richest visual artists of all time, probably doesn’t have time to update us on the contents of his breakfast bowl.

About a week ago, however, something changed: The voice became more first-person. The former enfant terrible‘s Instagram feed took on the form of a personal diary, looking back on his career.

The new posts offer a more humble and reflective Hirst, treating his followers to personal insights into his work, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the making of some of his early art. Images are accompanied by short essays, offering details about inspirations and failures.

Next to a photograph of his first-ever spot painting, for example, he admits, “I was wrong about Minimalism.” Another post, a video showing him working on a 1996 installation, sees him explaining that he was inspired by some ping-pong balls he saw floating on air jets at a fun fair rifle range.

My first ever Spot Painting [1986] was loose and painted with drippy paint, not minimal at all. In that first painting, I was wrestling with what I originally thought of as the coldness of Minimalism and the more emotional, abstract expressionist painting style I’d grown up with. At the time I painted it, it felt uncool and I abandoned it immediately for the rigidity of the grid, removing the mess, but after doing the Spot catalogue raisonné I’ve felt really drawn to that first painting and knew I’d revisit it eventually – maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I realised I was wrong about Minimalism – the simplest, cleanest thing can provoke an emotional response – but the Spot Paintings still play with that idea; despite the grid they always look happy, although there’s an unease there too because the colours don’t repeat when you expect them to. I originally wanted the Spots to look like they were painted by a human trying to paint like a machine. Colour Space is going back to the human element, so instead you have the fallibility of the human hand in the drips and inconsistencies. There are still no two exact colours that repeat in each painting, which is really important to me. I think of them as cells under a microscope. It felt right to show them somewhere historic rather than in a conventional gallery space and Houghton’s perfect. It feels totally right. #ColourSpace #HoughtonHall

A post shared by Damien Hirst (@damienhirst) on

A few of Hirst’s comments are outright self-deprecating, such as this one attached to an image of his 1988 work Boxes, which he compares to “something crap made on a kids’ tv show”:

A spokesperson from Hirst’s company, Science Ltd, confirmed the artist has been more active on his Instagram lately, but was unable to comment on his motivations for the shift.

That said, since Hirst has been busy making a splashy comeback ever since his extravagant Venice show, and his 309,000 Instagram followers hardly matches his global profile in-real-life, we imagine the artist is finally cashing in on the ready-made audience online.

Instagram is taking on an ever-growing role in the art world. Shepard Fairey and Kaws, who both use the medium in a fairly standard way, have each broken the 1 million follower mark. 

Other artists using the platform in more unconventional ways range from Nan Goldin, who has embraced the breakdown between the public and the private with her intimate photographs, to Cindy Sherman, who last year began using it to show off some fantastical self-portraits.


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