For years, the bad boy of British art, Damien Hirst, has defended himself against accusations of plagiarism. Now it seems he has has given up the fight and owned up to pinching ideas from his fellow artists.
“All my ideas are stolen”, Hirst told leading British Pop artist, Sir Peter Blake, in an interview filmed for new art films platform HENI Talks. The enfant terrible of British art explains how as an art student at Goldsmiths College, his teacher Sir Michael Craig-Martin instructed him “Don’t borrow ideas, steal them” and that he realised “you do not have to be original”.
During the video, Hirst admits to lifting the idea for his ‘spot paintings’ from abstract painter Larry Poons.
Hirst’s controversial career was kickstarted by ‘Mother and Child, Divided’, a sculpture of a bisected cow and calf in formaldehyde, which earned him the 1995 Turner prize. Since then, he has attracted several claims of copying his peers.
In 2001, he paid an undisclosed sum to the designer Norman Emms to fend off an action for breach of copyright. Emms had accused Hirst of using his £14.99 plastic toy as the basis for one of the artist’s sculptures. Two years later, Hirst denied that his shark in formaldehyde shared similarities with one on display in the east London shop window of artist Eddie Saunders.
In 2010, Hirst’s former friend, John LeKay claimed to have produced bejewelled skulls like Hirst’s ‘For the love of God’ several years before Hirst. Only last year, Hirst’s ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ exhibition at the Venice Biennale attracted the attention of underwater artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who argued some of the works were “stylistically the same” as his own.
Another piece in the same show, ‘Golden Heads’ caused tempers to flare over the suggestion it was a copy of an ancient Nigerian brass artwork.
At one point during the HENI Talks video, which is filmed in Sir Peter’s studio, Sir Peter reveals his wife banned him from making butterfly artworks in homage to Hirst. “You can’t get copyright on butterflies”, Hirst replies.