Damien Hirst: interview

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     'New Religion' by Sarah Lucas

    His motivation is rather more surprising. ‘Charles Saatchi was my inspiration and you copy your heroes. He was generous and enthusiastic and, if you think of what he did in St John’s Wood, it left a big hole when Boundary Road closed down. My wildest dream was to have a show there and I started making work for the space; before that everything was smaller in scale. I want to have the kind of fun that Saatchi had in his first gallery.’

    What difference does it make having money? ‘You have bigger and grander ideas, but you still have to live within your means. I’ve got to be careful with the new gallery because its a permanent space rather than a warehouse; it’s a lot of work to get it done, so you have to watch the cashflow. You have to be sure of what you’re doing, otherwise it will drag you down.’

    Knowing that what he makes will sell for millions, does he suffer from the Midas touch? ‘I did it when it didn’t make money and I’m still doing it when it does! Having money allows you to make stuff which is closer to the quality you want and it fucks you up less than drink or drugs. As long as you don’t believe you’ve arrived, you’re fine; but if you start getting complacent – thinking that you’re selling shit to cunts – you’re in difficulty. You have to believe that art is more powerful than money and has a life beyond it. Art is the closest you can get to immortality, though it’s a poor substitute – you’re working for people not yet born – and people want it because it is brilliant. It ends up in museums anyway; the rich have to give it back to the people, it’s their only option. There are no pockets in a shroud.’

    Hirst spends the winter months in Mexico where he has a place on the Pacific coast two hours from Acapulco. ‘Its a funky little place with 12 houses,’ he says, ‘and I’m building a studio on the beach. The kids love it – we take a teacher with us – Maia surfs and I mostly do drawings. I get sick of being here; we’re forever moaning. Tony Blair is just a liar; they call it spin but it’s really lies. I was taught not to lie to get what you want, but we live in a society where you are congratulated for doing it. So what do you teach your children – to benefit from situations at the expense of others?

    ‘There are two battles going on all the time – one outside and one inside – and when you’re there, what’s happening in America and Britain seems like a blip on the horizon. In Mexico there’s less bullshit and more horror. Two guys walked into a night club near us and tipped five severed heads onto the dancefloor. They were involved in drugs but, for everyone, the options seem more realistic; they are more afraid but in a healthier way. People are more humble in the face of the enormity of it all; there’s less arrogance and more understanding. We try to avoid death in a paranoid, fucked-up way but, if you accept it, there’s less of a dark cloud.

    ‘In the Darkest Hour There May Be Light’ is at the Serpentine Gallery until Jan 28

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