Andy Warhol and the "religious" dimension of contemporary art

Butler, Rex (2008) Andy Warhol and the "religious" dimension of contemporary art. Reading Room, 2: 28-45.

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Author Butler, Rex
Title Andy Warhol and the "religious" dimension of contemporary art
Formatted title
Andy Warhol and the “religious” dimension of contemporary art
Journal name Reading Room
ISSN 1177-2549
Publication date 2008
Sub-type Article (original research)
Issue 2
Start page 28
End page 45
Total pages 18
Editor Christina Barton
Natasha Conland
Wystan Curnow
Place of publication New Zealand
Publisher E. H. McCormick Research Library
Collection year 2009
Language eng
Subject C1
950205 Visual Communication
190101 Art Criticism
1901 Art Theory and Criticism
1903 Journalism and Professional Writing
2102 Curatorial and Related Studies
Formatted abstract
We might begin here with Damien Hirst's For the Love of God (2007), described by critics as the first work of twenty-first century art. It is a skull covered with some 8601 diamonds, originally costing £14 million and eventually sold for £50 million. Early commentators have seen the work as inspired by Aztec or Mexican reliquaries, or as coming out of the long Western tradition of memento mori or vanitas paintings. These references are undoubtedly present, but they pale into insignificance next to the sheer economic scale of the work: the massive investment Hirst undertook in making it and the enormous return he realised upon selling it. Indeed, because the sums involved are so large, the piece can seem more like a real-world financial transaction than an old-fashioned work of art. What one buys when one buys the work is more than anything its physical substance: buying the work is like buying diamonds. And yet there is also a profit realised. It is this profit that we might call the “artness” of the piece. But, exactly because we can calculate so accurately the difference between how much Hirst paid for it andhow much he sold it for, this artness is not anything outside of the material or financial embodiment of the work. It is not something without price or measure. It shines out of the work indissociable from its materiality, like the indefinable sparkle of diamonds, which would not exist without their setting. Paradoxically, then, at the same time as the work most seems a function of real-world economics, it also appears as a pure embodiment of art: its an is its profit, just as its profit is its art. What grins out there — not like a smile without a cat but like a smile somehow appearing through the cat -— is the very value of "art" itself.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Additional Notes Issue 2 subtitle: "Transcendental Pop"

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2009 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Communication and Arts Publications
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Created: Wed, 15 Apr 2009, 16:19:51 EST by Vicky McNicol on behalf of Faculty of Arts