Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Damien Hirst, Prince Philip and Me

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Damien Hirst

Florence, April 2. All done! Finito! Portocinqo! Eta nichivo, nichivo, nichivoya!  One month locked away painting. The first three canvases of The Italian Job - just 35 to go by 2013. Ronnie turned up on the Third Day (her life long ambition) and I slammed and bolted the door on her.

I’ve got three mobiles. Two landlines. Two websites. Two secretaries and a studio that was feeling unloved. So, I’ve done what I should have done last year: locked myself away to paint. It’s what I do but I was forgetting. Through the broken window Ronnie says by the way she’d seen a Lucy Freud preview and wanted to throw up. Such are the children (even half children) of the famous. When I’m painting I don’t do by the way. Ronnie then said had I got a match and she’d tell me the really big news that if I hadn’t been a hermit since March I’d know anyway.

FIONA_GRAHAM_MACKAY_2011_057.jpegCoughing on the end of a Gitanes and waving a bottle of something you mustn’t let drip on your shoes she said my portrait of Prince Michael is to be in the Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual show at the Mall Galleries and ain’t that good?

Absolutely wonderful. Must clean the brushes and fly.

London. April 7. I met Prince Philip at the Eccentric Club dinner (tell me, why is My Number One Fan a member of the Eccentrics?) and he, HRH, asked me where I’d painted Prince Michael. I said in the North Library of the The Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall. HRH was not impressed. I think he thinks The Athenaeum has too many bishops. When you’re pushing 91 I’d have thought you’d want to keep that sort of company close by.


I get back to find the Roll Up! Roll Up! Man is in town - or to give it its proper description: Tate Modern and the Damien Hirst Show, a.k.a Retrospective. The much advertised media fest guaranteed to get the punters and the critics in a tiz.

Mr. Hirst is a businessman -- a juggling magician -- but certainly no clown. Given his manipulation of the art world and media, forget the ‘But how can this be art?” routine. Don’t even go there. If there are any strong points about Mr Hirst’s artistic abilities, perhaps they would find greater acceptance on stage and film sets, or even party planning, (I can recommend Rouge the best of the best events companies - their mini Crystal Palace in Hyde Park for fashion week was magical and Nicki Haslan’s birthday bash was just as a bash should be)…so what’s the difference in that and any performance art hmm? I digress.

Look, the sun is shining and Ronnie’s had laser treatment to stop her snoring so lets be kind. Damien is the man who was at the right place smack on time. What a laugh and what young art student from nowhere with a sure-footed ability to organize and a driving ambition would turn away mega offers? The artistic equivalent of junk bonding. He could not believe his luck! 

This circus might amuse but there is little new to see: same old dots, saucepans, smelly rotting flesh (fascinating from a vegetarians point of view) even the poor shark sports a rather strained expression in a constipated kind of way. So, let the new wave critics stop getting jealous and grumps about him. Should you really want to make a statement about Damien Hirst’s work, don’t go and see it, don’t write about it, and don’t buy it! Gettit?

Did I go? Course I did. Just to check I was right. I was. Now to real art. I’ve got a dawn chorus business-class tomorrow.  New York. The Guggenheim. Now there’s a place that gets it right.

ArtScene Quote of the Week

"I always ignore money." - Damien Hirst

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Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments areā€¦

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