Damien Hirst on painting river views, aiding assistants and why Sensation was just too silent


Damien Hirst has teamed up with his rock star pal Pete Townshend, painting The Who star for the cover of his new single, Can’t Outrun the Truth. Hirst’s portrait of Pete in the Spin Paintings style goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s, London on 28 June in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust (est £120,000-£180,000). The pair spill the beans in an illuminating interview published by Sotheby’s, with the Brit artist touching on a range of subjects from working with assistants—“Really there’s only one creative person and that’s me, and if I have assistants who have ideas like that, I usually encourage them to go off and do their own thing”—to his current project.

“I’m painting the view of the river out of my window [at his studio in Hammersmith, west London] and everything is changing so much and so often that the paintings end up being collections of many small moments like high and low tides. Since lockdown I really love just painting on my own, the audience comes later,” Hirst explains.

Music helps when he’s painting the tides, he says, with tunes from Max Richter and Leon Bridges a boon. But an epochal event in his life could have been a little noisier. “When I look back at the Sensation exhibition [in 1997 at the Royal Academy of Arts] I was shocked to see how silent it was when we were taught at Goldsmiths that we could do anything, there are no boundaries, yet it’s silent like a mausoleum,” Damien reveals.


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