Damien Hirst and Charles Saatchi: Market-makers
|The establishment’s darling Damien Hirst|
The king of contemporary art in Britain is Damien Hirst, who morphed from enfant terrible to the richest artist who has ever lived in a matter of a decade or so.
Despite his repeated efforts to shock the bourgeoisie, Hirst has been clasped emphatically to the establishment bosom. The blockbuster Tate show during the 2012 Olympics is going to be a Hirst retrospective.
And that love affair began almost right away.
Hirst was incredibly pro-active and businesslike from the off, organising a group show that launched his own career and that of several of his friends in the summer of 1988. The bourgeoisie found that he shocked them in all the right places. His timing was impeccable. It was as if there had been a Hirst-shaped hole in the art-firmament just waiting for him to slot in.
Ad man and art entrepreneur Charles Saatchi “discovered” Hirst then and invested time and money in promoting him and the other Young British Artists (YBAs – how advertising to come up with a label).
The two men spent the following decade transforming the British art market and then the world art market into the big-bucks industry that we see today.
|How is it that Hirst owns polkadots?|
As a man steeped in marketing (he ran the biggest advertising agency in the world), Saatchi must have been thrilled when he found Hirst. Here was a young unknown – shocking, potty-mouthed, slumming with slebs and with a readymade avant-garde coterie – a perfect caricature of bohemian – how marketable was that? What’s more Hirst was (and is) almost insanely productive – work just gushed out of his studio.
Hirst quickly understood the key lesson of marketing: establish your brand.
Saatchi and Hirst finally fell out in 2003, but not before both were quids in. Today Hirst operates exactly like a top fashion designer, creating statement pieces, but making serious money by selling affordable bits and bobs to people who want to be part of the Hirst story. He is a brilliant entrepreneur.
|What a whizz-bang chart.|
Hirst embodies the Gemini artist just perfectly. Look at the stellium he has in the twins. He is a trickster, a prankster, a talker, a salesman. He doesn’t do much of the hands-on work (and never has) because he believes that providing the ideas is where the real art lies. So very air sign… “I’ll talk while you get your hands dirty,”
The stellium in Gemini certainly speaks of fame, what with the Sun itself, the centre of his identity conjuncting the North Node. This also suggests something about Hirst’s sense of timing. He lives in the moment, seizing life by the scruff of it’s neck.
Jupiter is in its fall in Gemini and a degree from the royal star Aldebaran, which also denotes fame but also excess.
His other stellium is also in a Mercury-ruled sign, Virgo. The generational signature of those born in the mid-1960s is that Uranus-Pluto conjunction and Hirst has the mid-60s add-on of the Saturn opposition. The whole is highly integrated with his chart, creating a dynamic T-square. No wonder he is so emblematic of that generation (at least an aspect of it).
His Mars is in Virgo, so despite all the merry prankster stuff, Hirst works hard, and I bet he takes the craft aspects a lot more seriously than you might guess. As he says himself, even if it doesn’t look like he’s doing art all the time, he’s thinking it, which is his work.
Most of Hirst’s work seems to be about death in one way or another, so I expect he either has Scorpio rising or at the MC which would make artistic Neptune angular. (If you happen to know when he was born, do tell me.)
|Look at all those lucky sextiles and trines.|
But what I find really fascinating (hilarious) is that the other figure who dominates the art market, Charles Saatchi, has a chart that is so close to Hirst’s.
Again, there’s a stellium in Gemini and a second stellium; this time in Leo, interesting for someone who “shuns” the limelight, except of course that he likes to name really big buildings, big companies, TV shows and prizes after himself. That’ll be the Leo then.
Saatchi’s Gemini Sun makes an exact sextile to his North Node in Leo. All this effort is about posterity. In this he is quite different from Hirst, who is interested in the now. Saatchi thinks very long term, very strategically.
He wants our children’s children to talk about the Saatchi in the same way that we talk about the Tate now. (I wonder how he feels about the afterlife,) The tightest pattern in this chart is the mini-grand trine between that selling Gemini Mercury, artistic Neptune and Jupiter in Cancer. He must be like a big mother to his employees. I imagine he is a very controlling man; he must remind his wife, TV cook Nigella Lawson, of her dad.
You’ll notice that I haven’t discussed the art in this post, that’s because Hirst and Saatchi are really more about commerce. Together they dominate the art world commercially, but perhaps no longer critically. Posterity will be the judge. I think Mercury would be quite satisfied with that; he is after all a patron of markets and merchants.
To view more work by Hirst, click here.