Damien Hirst installation owner charges teen art-rival with theft of £500,000 for removing box of pencils from installation

A teenaged artist who was forced to stop selling his collages when Damien Hirst sent threats to his gallery (the collages incorporated ironic images of Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull sculpture) is now facing a possible jail sentence because he took a box of pencils from a Hirst installation as a prank and offered to return them only if Hirst would let him go back to displaying and selling his art. Hirst claims the box of pencils -- Faber Castell Mongol 482s from 1990 -- is worth GBP500,000, making this one of the gravest modern art thefts in British history.
Taking revenge, Cartrain took the box of pencils that were part of Hirst's sculpture, Pharmacy, which was being shown as part of its Classified exhibition that closed at the end of last month.

He then created a "wanted"-style poster that read: "For the safe return of Damien Hirst's pencils I would like my artworks back that DACS and Hirst took off me in November. It's not a large demand... Hirst has until the end of this month to resolve this or on 31 July the pencils will be sharpened. He has been warned."

Yesterday, Cartrain told The Independent: "I went to the Tate Britain and by chance had a golden opportunity to borrow a packet of pencils from the Pharmacy exhibit. That same day I made up a fake police appeal poster advertising that the pencils had been removed from the Tate and that if anyone had any information they should contact the police on the phone number advertised.

"A few weeks later I went out and I returned home to find out the art and antiques squad from New Scotland Yard had called round with a warrant for my arrest..."

But that is not the end of it. Police also arrested Cartrain's 49-year-old father, who they suspected of harbouring the pencils. "Initially, we arrested his dad but it soon became clear that it was his son who was responsible," said a police source. "We arranged to arrest him by appointment. The act of theft was clearly a stunt to gain publicity."

Damien Hirst in vicious feud with teenage artist over a box of pencils (via We Make Money Not Art)


  1. What is great – truly great – about this story is the kids sense of humor in in threatening to “sharpen the pencils” if his demands are not met. Hirst should take a leaf out of his book and get a sense of humor of his own. Maybe he could buy one…

  2. If this ever goes to trial, I look forward to the spectacle of Damien Hirst being put on the witness stand and cross-examined in front of a jury as to exactly how a box of pencils is worth half a million quid.

  3. I think Hirst’s reaction betrays the fact that he isn’t an artist as much as an investment option. He’s trying to protect his monetary value (in the way that conventional, uninspired businesses do, by legal attack), and flushing whatever meagre artistic value he might have had down the crapper. Why buy or patronise Hirst when you can just buy some shares or bonds or some other appreciating asset – they’re equivalent (although far less gaudy and pretentious).

  4. What’s really ironic here is that Hirst basically built his own career out of stunts to gain publicity.

  5. Agree with the comments re sense of humour. More than that, Damien should get a sense of self-preservation. What if he takes this to court, and the jury decide that the crayons are worth £2.50? Could buyers of Hirst’s “art” get a refund?

    The hose of cards which is modern art, only needs a nudge.

  6. Just to say, Hirst’s art isn’t Modern. Please don’t offend Modernism by sticking Hirst in there. Modernism ended in the 70s.

  7. If they were that easily removed, it is likely that Hirst could simply have replaced the pencils. All a defense attorney has to do is point that out, and the value of the pencils drops to $5. Indeed, Cartrain’s stunt has likely dramatically increased the value of the installation, because now there’s a story to it. If I were the judge, I’d throw the case out with prejudice. But IANAL.

  8. Should Hirst have a sense of humour about a teenager copying his artworks, or should he chase him down to recouperate possible lost earnings?

  9. Collage is a century old form of art. Hirst has issued legal threats because his tacky shit got incorporated into some?

    I never considered him as an artist, now I’m certain of it.

  10. As Armando Iannucci said: I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like – and I’d like to kick Damien Hirst in the stomach.

  11. I’ve got at least a dozen of those pencils from the late 70s/early 80s in my closet. Who knew they could be my retirement fund!!!

  12. I can kinda sympathise with the gallery owning the art piece going after a thief, perhaps the artist’s choice of target could have been better. The Real thing we should be unhappy about is Hearst’s silly attack on another artist re-using an image of his work. Is it Truly illegal in England to use an image of another’s work in your own work, especially a collage?

    If I was an English artist, and used a photo of the Mona Lisa in a collage, could the Mona Lisa’s owner also send me a valid cease and desist order?

  13. Did this Mr Hirst pay all the graphic designers involved in the hundreds of items in his Wal-Mart, sorry, Pharmacy piece for use of their art?

    Just a thought.

  14. Echoing Secret Life of Plants, Hirst is not Modernism. He more properly belongs to his own monotypic classification, Pretentious Dickism.

  15. What does the box of pencils look like? Buy another box and substitute them, and sell the real box on the black market for $$$

  16. I’m physically too angry to even come up with a woth while comment… i, i, rrr, argh, mmmmuh, pfff, i hate damien hirst!!!

  17. I think the kid should refine the artwork further, by using the pencils to solve a crossword puzzle, which then in turn would be the next, further refined, artwork.
    Hopefully, that would also trigger an art war, between the established artists, such as Damien, and the new up-and-coming ones.
    Now that could be interesting.

  18. Attention-seekers, both of them although Cartrain’s motives are more interesting and whimsical. Hirst is no longer relevant and has to resort to stunts.

  19. in an art world where name is all, there is an odd recursive truth to all this. They’re all still douchebags of course.

  20. Ocker3 @15;

    The Mona Lisa isn’t in copyright (and arguably never was, the concept not existing until the Statute of Anne in 1710.) Damien Hirst is alive and well and his work attracts copyright. Whilst I know a lot of people (including me) think that copyright terms are too long, I don’t think anyone seriously argues for a term so short that Hirst’s work wouldn’t still qualify.

    Now, if this artist is deliberately including Hirst’s work in his own, and then is selling the result, he’s infringing Hirst’s copyright. There’s no general defence of transformative use in English copyright law, and although there are exemptions for incidental inclusion (“the picture happens to be in the background of a photo”) and criticism (“I’m writing about the picture”) I don’t see that either of these apply here.

    Whether Hirst’s response is appropriate, and whether the whole silly mess that has resulted reflects well on anyone, are other matters altogether.

  21. I really hope Faber Castell sues Hirst for copyright infringement for using their pencils in his installation.

  22. This reminds me of a rap feud. I’m sure the emotions are authentic, but every side benefits from the publicity, so there is business pressure to escalate.

  23. By the turn of the 22nd century, there will be terabytes of detailed criticism written about the Jackass School, and what it meant in its larger social context.

  24. I’m kind of surprised at all the anger at Hirst. The way I see this is the same as if someone took a taxidermy animal from a Robert Rauschenberg or a pair of scissors from Cai Guo-Qiang’s airplane. Yes, the object itself is worth much less outside of the art, but it’s still part of the piece and has been raised its original value by being part of that art. No matter what you think of the art aesthetically, this person has still stolen a piece of the museum’s collection. I agree that Hirst is overreacting, but I don’t think the younger artist took the right approach either.

  25. Remind me to never buy any of Damien’s work. A rich “artist” can’t even take a little criticism? He is no Michaelangelo and should not behave as such. All the stuff about copyright is beside the point – the guy is an ass (c)

  26. This is why I believe the ONLY way to fix the problems in the art world today is to create a double-blind structure where neither the art patrons nor the art gallery itself knows whose work is on display. That way, if there is anything objectively of worth in a given art piece, it will be immediately evident having been divorced from the name of the artist. It would also resolve the problem of outsider art not being featured in galleries, exemplified in the above article where an old, established hack artist can crush a blooming young artist with his monetary weight.

    Of course, that would make the world of art collapse as is, since 99.999% of “art” today is just salesmanship more than anything.

  27. Hirst is a skilfull marketer and self-promoter. I respect that, truly. That’s what a lot of us do or attempt to do in this entrepreneurial age. And I honestly don’t think it’s okay to remove pieces of an artwork, even a douchey Damien Hirst artwork. The kid should not have done that, IMO. BUT the thing that sticks in my craw is that Hirst had a hissyfit about the kid’s collages and issued legal threats. Bitch, please. Who knew a lad as brash and shameless as old Damien was such a fragile little rosebud at heart?

    Also: “harbouring pencils”! bahahaha! Now there’s a crime you don’t hear about every day.

  28. ilovechocolatemilk @#33

    A brilliant idea! not least of which is because I am genuinely enjoying a glass of chocolate milk even as I type.


    I say torrent them all and let God sort it out!

  29. If Hurst doesn’t pursue the poor lad he might cause a drop in value of Hurst works already owned by collectors. If you spent millions on a Hurst you’d be upset if Damien didn’t defend the valuation of his works…. your investment falls before your eyes. That folks is BUSINESS, which is what Hurst is all about these days surely? For certain, the decision to take action was instigated by DH’s accountants, lawyers, and business retinue. Would DH’s artist friends have told him to go after the lad? Course not. One might also say that inclusion of any DH work in any other art is de facto an ironic comment on the state of the art world. A straight facsimile of his work in order to provoke a prosecution is an artistic statement, IMHO.

  30. @35

    Another foreseeable problem would be all the world’s art students complaining that they want their money back from their universities as their degrees and years spent memorizing names is now worthless. I suppose the main problem with art today is its criticism, as entire legacies have been established today through the work of critics instead of the artists themselves. It’s an incestuous and sordid business between artists and art critics and I would love to see it abolished in favor of art that the public can actually appreciate.

    Of course, none of these ideas would ever come to bear since the plebeian pleasure of a glass of chocolate milk is far too uncouth for a real patron of the arts.

  31. The kid didn’t steal a work of art, he defaced a work of art. The cost of the damage is the expense of a conservator from the Tate getting another box of pencils.

    To accuse this kid of £500,000 theft is false on the face of it, and viscous.

    The message is, beware of having anything to do with Hirst, he’s petty, vindictive and vicious.

  32. @9, 18: I think it’s fairly clear that “modern” in the terms of the movement is not meant here. Yes, it also a technical term that does refer a specific period, but we can all probably acknowledge that it’s a word that exists in the regular world as well that’s interchangeable with “contemporary.”

    I’d rather save my breath for those who *actually* misuse Modern or M/modernist.

  33. @36

    While I entirely agree with the problem, having witnessed it firsthand at college in the 1980s, I would posit one caveat.

    The wider gallery system also now acts as a kind of zoo to keep many of the pointless and narcissistic personalities away from the rest of us. If they are always infighting, then they are not running around loose trying to gain our everyday attention, like artists used to think they wanted.

    Sometimes, as in this case, these fights leak out into the real world, and we stare and point and laugh, but I wonder… I fear that if these gallerists were allowed to free range among us, they would grow into murderous horrors like out of The Host, Cloverfield, or The Mist, only so superstupid and banal as to kill mankind like exposure to the basest alkali.


    Unless the advertising world infects and crushes them first. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things, which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth.

  34. As far as I can tell the world of British modern art exists primarily to provide comedian fodder. (And I’m saying that as a proud former art major).

  35. If someone were to consider Damien Hirst’s work “art” then why can’t we consider the theft and ransom of the pencils “art” or at least a valid form of artistic expression?
    The whole thing seems silly but if the pencils are returned perfectly unharmed there should be no reason for legal action. It seems like a lawsuit would bring negative press and waste time in court.

  36. You know what Marcel Duchamp would’ve done? Go buy another box of pencils and put them in the piece. After all, it’s not THE box of pencils that’s important, it’s A box of pencils.

  37. I was under the impression that Damien Hirst was alright. Only now do I realise how very wrong I was. I think it takes a big man to admit when they’re wrong, and I hope Mr Hirst will do the same.

  38. I love this story!

    I really like this fake Damien Hirst blog https://www.google.com/reader/view/?tab=my#stream/feed%2Fhttp%3A%2F%2Fhirstdamien.blogspot.com%2Ffeeds%2Fposts%2Fdefault

    Maybe all artists who wants to work anonymously (like Ilovechocolatemilk says everyone should) instead could work under the name Damien Hirst, is that legal? Would be fantastic.

    Makes me think of the movie Being John Malkovich, with lots of JMs and you don`t reallly know who the real one is.

  39. I’d like to see the kid grind them all down on a belt sander, set the shavings on a tray in front of a cliff, with a video camera recording the performance, and then get rich parlaying it into the start of his art career.

    Nice point about Duchamp above, too.


  40. @Alan: Exactly! There’s a confusion about which Readymade urinal is the original, so who cares? At least the Dadaists had a sense of humor, unlike Hirst.

  41. I think they’re both in the wrong, though Hirst is the wronger party. A look at Cartrain’s work will reveal that he’s a mediocre and unimaginative “artist” whose work doesn’t extend beyond spouting clumsily-executed juxtapositions of hot-button concepts (Ronald McDonald in a prison jumpsuit! that’s something about, I dunno, capitalism or globalisation or something), waving his arms about and screaming “look at me, I’m edgy and subversive and dangerous, just like Banksy!”. The difference is that Banksy actually has coherent concepts to his works, and his execution is quite good, whereas Cartrain seems to be too busy hollering for attention to hone his skills or come up with some original ideas.

    Having said that, nailing him to the wall for this stunt is grossly excessive, and shows Hirst to be a first-rate douchebag out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel.

  42. I’m very curious as to how or under what precedent the DACS and Hirst were able to obtain Cartrain’s exhibited work.

    If if was an issue of copyright infringement why wasn’t a cease and desist order issued instead of such a direct and provocative action?

    And in whose custody is the ‘offending’ artwork actually in?

  43. Damien Hirst is about as enjoyable as Shep Fairey, which is to say he isn’t.

    In his defense, I predict this is done to more put the fear of god into potential copy cat actions by others more than the personal vendetta it is being portrayed as and after a suitable passage of time it will wisp away into a stay of charges or whatever the UK equivalent is.

    One of the other posters has correctly pointed out that quite a bit of Mr. Hirst’s work is executed by others. What I find funny is that Mr. Hirst was very quickly forgiven for something far more egregious than this kid’s prank. He’s been twice caught plagiarizing the original art of others (just as Mr Fairey has). Why are we so quick to forgive these gasbags for that? Surely none of the general public (we mere rabble) have any vested interest in his works retaining their current market value so why are people so quick to forget DAMIEN HIRST IS AN ART THIEF OF THE WORST FORM!?!?

  44. I think it would be cool if he bought an identical box of pencils, so he would be the only the only person in the world to know which box is worth 5 and which is worth 500,000 GBP.

  45. How can Hirst be any MORE cynical?

    The guy has made an absolute fortune for ‘artwork’ he doesn’t create himself – he instructs ‘technicians’ to do it for him… then phones Saatchi to see how much money he can get.

    This young artist seems to have far more creativity, integrity and humour. I hope this story makes the sycophants reject Hirst and his dodgy sense of ‘art’ and let him disappear into obscurity.

  46. Thanks for the snuff, Tak. I had to work off the mellow from the chocolate milk first.


    Maybe the young artist’s mistake was in such an obvious swipe. Perhaps we should prepare for a future of nano-collagists who will secretly steal all the interior molecules of great art, and re-exhibit them as plastinized “art-skeletons” along the lines of Body Worlds and its imitators.

  47. The wider gallery system also now acts as a kind of zoo to keep many of the pointless and narcissistic personalities away from the rest of us.

    You know, I’m sure this isn’t really true per se, but it’s poetic enough to be better than true.

  48. Can’t he get off as a whistleblower since he exposed Damien Hirst ripping the Tate off to the tune of £10,000,000?

  49. Damien Hirst is a fucking asshole, and so are the people who thought it was appropriate to arrest this teenager.

  50. Would like very much to join in the snarky fray, but my attorney warns me that any contribution may be found in court of law to be derivative of extant snark, and therefore compromise the exisiting vision of previous contributors.

  51. the pencil thief has a blog with images of his collage and graffiti work:
    image link
    He’s not half bad imo.

    I’m more on his side than DH,
    it should be pointed out however that the pencils in question are actually a rare and prized model that is no longer produced.

    Not worth 50 billion or whatever being sought, but still worth much more than a typical pack of pencils you will find today.
    Sort of adds another twist.

    The court should find him guilty but the punishment should be something farcical.
    Like a year of community service as Hirst’s studio assistant?

  52. I don’t know. I guess I realized that I’m just Bud Fox… and as much as I wanted to be Gordon Gekko, I’ll always be Bud Fox.

  53. It is a little known fact that Damien Hirst has actually been engaged in a twenty-six year performance piece titled “The World’s Most Gigantic Asshole”

  54. I dunno. Maybe we should all just agree never to pay any more attention to Damien Hirst and his “art”.

  55. Look what a poor excuse the unholy coalition of galleries, Museums and critics has turned art into: yet another playground of entitlement for the elite who have been marketed to those who have thoroughly drank the Kool-Aid. Even the cops hop when Hirst– or his buyers– call. Power keeps to its own. And it used to be– or perhaps I am naive– that art was supposed to be the last frontier of the wild, those who would question authority. Hirst has become the Power, and any notion of him being radical or one who brings change, vision or a questioning of authority is nothing but a marketing gimmick, a finely coiffed image..
    I pray there is some way we can cut out these people, see them for who they are, and restore some real substance to what we once termed ‘art’. Perhaps theres some way, like the currently dying record labels, that those galleries, Museums and buyers who support this Racket could be cut out as worthless and unnecessary middle-men.

  56. Sent his firm an email requesting that he stop being so “dicky”.

    It will never get to him, but that’s mostly the point.

  57. Why’s everyone hatin on Hirst?
    I don’t think anybody’s right in this situation. Hirst shouldn’t have gotten so worked up about the kid using images of his art and the kid DEFINITELY should not have stolen the pencils. Whether it’s a box of pencils or a painstaking painting, art is art and whoever created it thought long and hard about what it should look like. You’d think the teenager would respect that, being a fellow artist.

  58. You know this whole charade can only benefit Cartrain. Hirst doesn’t need the publicity, he’s already a megastar. I like to think this is his cynical way of throwing a bone to the young artist. Calling attention to something so petty wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

  59. Honestly, many (most?) contemporary artists have painted themselves into a corner (can’t decide if the pun is intentional or not). By placing such a premium on “originality”–at the expense of any other measure–they’re doomed to failure. After the dadaists, expressionists, minimalist, and any number of 20th century schools, it’s literally all been done before. By default they’re playing a loosing game. Even “the artist as personality” was pioneered my Michaelangelo (not exactly a recent development).

    So really, all they have left is shenanigans, and they have no one to blame for their desperation than themselves.

  60. It’s also beyond insane that detectives for Scotland Yard, who could be doing something useful (patrolling dark alleys, helping old ladies across the street, filling in potholes) are instead arresting and searching the homes of a starving artist and his dad for a pack of pencils, soley because a deranged megalomaniac has declared they’re valuable art.

  61. Snig, you nailed it. The most dangerous players in this drama are the “art cops”. They should be protecting society from sociopaths, not doing their bidding.

  62. I’m surprised that so many people think that two wrongs make a right. Is it okay to vandalize as long as you call it a prank and the guy is a jerk?

  63. The pencils were boxed. Can’t a professional artist just reproduce the box art and stick some new pencils in it? I know I could – hell I’ll do it half price, just gimme that GPB 250,000 and you’ll still come out on top.

    Seriously though if he wanted to piss the kid off and get him off his back that would have been more effective. The kid wanted publicity and he got it. Now even I know who he is.


  64. If some kid were using my work to promote himself, I sure as hell would throw the book at him. Right? Wrong? It only matters who has the best barristers.
    It sucks to have people make money off of something of mine without permission.

    As far as I’m concerned, Hirst is one of the best dimensional artists of the post-modern era. A straight-line extrapolation of Duchamp, and he still manages to engender such magnificent fury in his victims. Bravo. Extraordinary.

    And Takuan, if you’re going to quote a stand-up comedian, at least do it properly: “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.”

  65. Cartrain should state that the non-Hirst portion of his collage was worth 500,001. And if they trade, he’s considering not pressing charges.

    “he still manages to engender such magnificent fury in his victims”

    Engendering magnificent fury in victims is a weird way to judge art. Sacha Baron Cohen is much better at it, reaching a wider audience.

    I know the quote from Deteriorata by Tony Hendra as “consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do”. Not stand-up. He sounds like he’s sitting down.

  66. MKUltra @ 108:

    On behalf of admirers of quality art everywhere, I ask that you not insult Marcel Duchamp, for reasons noted by Alan @ 51.

  67. I actually like some of Hirsts earlier art I haven’t seen anything from him recently that really caught my eye. I had my portfolio and several pencils stolen a few years back maybe I should have claimed an insane amount for the pencils…

    I think this whole thing has gotten out of control. If that kid sits in prison for anymore than one day there is something wrong with the system. I hope a judge sorts the situation out properly.

  68. thing is hirsts work is hardly original the daisy scandal for eg, hirst defiantly copied that daisy image in my opinion, no doubt about the images are exactly the same minus the colour. i hope he gets sued hard for that. so to complain about another artist is lame.

    same as his spin wheel paintings have been around for years, i believe used to be a circus /fair attraction.

    still maybe the kid shouldn’t have stolen the pencils but hirst should fix up and not have issued threats to the gallery. what a tool!

    reminds me of the dface chapman brothers scandal, that was also pathetic on dfaces part. again not one ounce of originality in his work and complained that chapman brothers stole his idea of drawing wings on a pound note.idiots!

  69. I have it on good authority that a wall in Damien Hirst’s ‘hood is about to be graffitied with “Hirst is a wanker” by a group called themseves “Friends of Faber pencils”. They’re planning on using it as an installation piece and putting it up for sale at £500k.

  70. Ahh, the kids these days. The cheek of them!

    Why, back when I was his age, I would have been happy to have had Mr. Hirst stab my eyeball out and sell it for a mint.

  71. Metronicity, we should start a contest. Whoever can do the best art containing the words ‘Hirst is a wanker’ will get…to be the winner of the contest.

  72. It says the artist was holding the pencils until his own art was returned to him. So they took his art, and he took theirs. Why doesn’t he get to charge them for the theft of his work? Seems fair to me…

  73. If I were Hirst I would replace the pencils, but not just one box…I would stack 250 boxes of pencils in its place. Then the piece would have changed (arguably in an interesting way), it would have a story behind it and he wouldn’t have looked like a dick.

  74. Somewhere along the line, the word “artist” came to mean “professional douchebag.” Both of them. Eliciting a reaction from someone is not all there is to art. I can do that by running up behind someone and shouting, “BOO!”

    Of course these days I could videotape it, play it out of synch on three stacked black and white TVs, and earn a scholarship for it.

  75. Hirst is doing one of two things:

    Helping the kid out with publicity


    Testing him by taking the prank to its logically absurd conclusion to see how he responds.

  76. It seems a lot of people think it’s OK for this kid to walk into a gallery and take whatever he wants.

    Cartrain shows blinding arrogance by putting his hands on someone else’s art and should be fined for that stupidity in itself.

    Hirst may be overreacting about the kid plagiarizing his work, but the Tate can’t allow their artist’s work (or parts of finished work) to be taken from their gallery without pursuing legal action.

    I admit, sharpening the pencils is funny though.

  77. Anonymous126,

    You left out the third option: just being the douche it looks like he’s being.

  78. Raspop,

    Beyond anything being ‘OK’, I think more people are just disinclined to sympathize with the one who threw the first punch. Hirst acted like a dick by calling the collage infringement.

    IP lawyers maybe, but an artist who doesn’t acknowledge collage?

  79. So do you think Charles Saatchi really hate the English art scene? Are did he reeaaly hate the English art scene.

    Ultimatley he’s responsible having started the game by paying astronomical sums for all that dross.

    Give me Goya by Jake and Dinos Chapman any day.

  80. Arkizzle,

    I get that people aren’t sympathizing with Hirst for the collage, but now why should he just replace the pencils? If someone steals anything from my studio or a gallery holding my work they should expect a sound thrashing.

    I saw the collage Cartrain did by following a link one of the posters provided. It’s really not that good and Hirst should have let it go. Like someone else said earlier, all Hirst did was validate Cartrain’s mediocrity.

  81. Do you suppose Hurst would prosecute *me* if I replaced the missing pencils with identical but different ones?

  82. Raspop,

    I totally agree with you, I don’t think there is any real reason Hirst shouldn’t get his pencils back, but I think Cartain’s work should be allowed to stand.

    I certainly don’t think the merit of one’s work should be the reason it is valid. Collage, ‘found object’, sampling, etc. are all important strains of art, that have somehow become cannon fodder in a new IP age, and Hirst has chosen his side.

    I have had a lot of time for him in the past, and spent plenty of time defending his work.. but as of now: fuck him.


    Thanks for the good conversation.

    I never have liked Hirst’s work. His legal tussle with a 16 year old shows me he has no imagination, either. Really, Hirst got lucky meeting Saachi in a period when sensationalism (read: big and pretentious) was hot.

    Before acting like an entitled brat, Cartrain missed an opportunity to fight Hirst’s claim because the skull in his collage is represented in a totally different medium and was used in parody. Not technically plagiarism.

    With all that said, I’m in the opposite camp where the merit of one’s work should be the sole term of its validation. Collage, painting, sculpture – the medium isn’t what makes a piece, it’s the execution. Art is something where the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.

  84. MKUltra,

    I believe Takuan was paraphrasing Deteriorata.

    “Know what to kiss – and when.
    Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do.
    Wherever possible, put people on hold.”

  85. Raspop,

    ..the merit of one’s work should be the sole term of its validation.

    Ok, but that can be a tricky position.

    For example, Britain has had a strong and varied graffiti scene for many years. Similary, it has been policed strongly, with an occasional ‘hall of fame’ allowed in places like basketball courts. But for the most part, walls are cleaned quickly.

    Then, along comes Banksy.

    To be sure, Banksy’s work is brilliantly conceived and executed; I really appreciate it. But when his work suddenly started getting mainstream attention, and earning thousands at auction, the local councils decided to change the rules for him alone, and protect some of his work (indeed, over-eager councils have been reprimanded for destroying his work).

    So, at what point does Banksy get his own set of rules? Who gets to say Banksy’s work is more important than anyone elses, or deserving of a double standard?

    Either painting on walls is a valid pastime, or it all gets scrubbed.

    Let’s not reduce this to defending tags (which I sometimes do). There is lots of great street-art/graffiti that isn’t tagging and isn’t Banksy.

    Anyhow, that is really what I meant with “..don’t think the merit of one’s work should be the reason it is valid”. Maybe I should have said “the only reason”, but I think either graffiti is an artform or it isn’t. Collage is an artform, or it isn’t. We shouldn’t bend the rules to suit our tastes.

  86. indeed I was. Arkie, Dear friend, I fear we will probably never see imaging chip to sensor on this, but while I do concede substantial Krylon work on brick can be art I still insist that base taggers be passed through a cheese-grater slowly.

  87. ..we will probably never see imaging chip to sensor on this..

    Sigh, you speak my language.


    Painting on walls has been a valid pastime for centuries. I’m gonna go with the Sistine Chapel for this one. It’s really a matter of having permissions and commissions.

    Some people desire graffiti on their buildings and some don’t. I fully sympathize with the people who don’t. There is more badly done graffiti than good. Match that up with gangs using it to mark their territory – no thanks.

    Once a person’s work is desired, like Banksy’s, then it becomes something a little different than random vandalism. If he puts his work on an unwilling participant’s wall it should get treated with the same respect.

    So yes, it’s the merit of one’s work that validates its existence. The medium is still only a tool used to create the piece.

  89. No, Banksy’s work is exactly the same “random vandalism” as any quality street-art, which is deemed illegal whilst Banksy’s is protected. Desirable or not.

    And I clearly made a distinction between tagging/gangsigns and the work I was likening to Banksy’s. I thought it a valid and interesting avenue for the conversation.

    Graffiti is illegal. Unless the work is arbitrarily deemed ‘valuable’.

    There are lots of amazing street-artists, all of whose work is illegal. Why does Banksy have a specific-seperate law?

    And surely the purity/essence of his work, in situ, is undermined somewhat by it being permitted by the authorities (not an argument, but a point of discussion).

  90. I’m not really familiar with the Banksy situation. If he painted on my wall without asking, I would erase it if I wanted to. No law could or should be able to stop me. That would imply something preposterous like kids with spray paint get to decide what your house or business has to look like.

    Don’t know why he gets special treatment, maybe I’ll read up on it later on. It seems like there’s something else going on there.

    1. That would imply something preposterous like kids with spray paint get to decide what your house or business has to look like.

      The appearance of your house or business is currently determined by your local government, usually with the aim of making it look exactly like everybody else’s. I’d be pretty thrilled to see Banksy repaint Number 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey and its hundreds of thousands of clones..

  91. I’m not at all telling you what to do with your wall, but there are lots of council-owned walls in the UK that have sworn off cleaning up Banksy pieces, whilst no other artists get this treatment, presumably based on their monetary value.

    And I genuinely didn’t mean this to turn into a discussion on the validity of graffiti, per se.

    Here are some links I posted in another Banksy thread, to get you started :)

    Banksy wall sells for £208,000
    Banksy wall stolen and posted on ebay
    £300,000 Banksy wall accidentally painted over by council
    Banksy wall saved by town (about 1/3 down the article)

  92. if I graffiti a wall and coincidentally create a valuable work of art, do I have any rights under law to force the owner to sell me the wall it’s on?

  93. what about the principle that title can be compromised by tolerated use to the point of creating an easement?

  94. The rights of an easement holder vary substantially among jurisdictions. Historically, the common law courts would enforce only four types of easement: the right-of-way (easements of way), easements of support (pertaining to excavations), easements of “light and air”, and rights pertaining to artificial waterways.
    Furthermore, easement could only attach to an adjacent land[citation needed], not to a specific person.

    Such rules no longer hold in many jurisdictions.

    Works of art don’t seem to be covered :)

  95. Although:

    Historic preservation easement. Similar to the conservation easement, typically grants rights to a historic preservation organization to enforce restrictions on alteration of a historic building’s exterior or interior.

    If your work was deemed ‘historic’.

  96. An American TV show, Jericho, was renewed after cancellation because fans sent peanuts to the network. Perhaps someone can organize pencils being sent to the Douchebag and the museum to get them to drop this? I’ve never ordered pencils internationally; is there a UK version of Staples that I can order from? Is there a way to send them Postage Due?

  97. Thanks for the links.

    Yeah, I came across a book of his stuff a couple of months ago at a friend’s house. Laughed for hours.

    This Banksy guy has something I’ve never seen before in graffiti. In fact, I hesitate to even put his work in that league. People were genuinely upset when some of his work was painted over. I think the merit question still stands, don’t you?

    Don’t take this too personally, but perhaps you are a little generous with your labeling of artists. I don’t believe there are different types of art. I won’t name drop who said it to me, but this is what I’ve been told: There is no street-art. There is also no Garden art, digital, conceptual, protest art or any of that. There is only Art. Some make it and some don’t. It’s not easy to do.


    I’ve owned both a business and a house and there were no restrictions (that I’m aware of) preventing me from having a mural on the outside.

    Governments in the west aren’t designed to make you powerless, but bad attitudes are.

  99. There is only Art.”

    I agree, 100%. No question. But conversations need signposts.

    Don’t take this too personally, but perhaps you should look past the establishment, and your self-confessed limited knowledge of work in this field, before deciding who gets to be an artist.

    If your genuine initial reaction to a conversation about quality street art* and Banksy, was to pull out nonsense about gang signs (“no thanks”) and empty clichés “there is more badly done graffiti than good” (equally: “there is more badly done art than good”), you probably don’t have enough scope in your definition to be quite so arrogant in your assessment.

    Go. Look. Enjoy.

    There are many walls, many book, many websites.

    *as a description, not a classification

  100. “Damien “Pencil Dick” Hirst; as he has chosen how to be remembered forever, along with “Two Sheds” etc.

  101. ARKIZZLE,

    So what’s your point in all this? I thought we were having a friendly conversation.

    Are you saying that because someone paints outside that they’re in a totally different field somehow?

    If you agree 100% about just art then what’s the problem?

    Go.Look.Enjoy.? Establishment??? My god, I feel like I just walked into a militant Let’s get Green Nike commercial.

  102. come now, surely the point is that Pencil Dick Hirst does indeed have a pencil dick, as some of his friends have remarked.

  103. “try a mural of a giant penis and see how far you get.”

    uh, you want a giant penis on your house?
    Good luck with that.

  104. “come now, surely the point is that Pencil Dick Hirst does indeed have a pencil dick, as some of his friends have remarked.”

    you have pee-pees on your mind, Tak?

  105. Raspop,

    it was mostly enjoying the conversation, until you decided to tell me ‘my’ artists weren’t artists at all.
    I’m suggesting you don’t have enough information to make the kind of statements you appear to be making. So I invited you to expand your limited view of the people I’m including.

    And you might actually like it. As I say, go explore.

  106. This kid’s “theft” is a higher work of art than anything Hirst ever produced.

    Hirst is an uninspired, egomaniacal douchebag.

  107. Hey Ark,

    I see I offended you by not including your artists in the subject we were talking about, but all I meant to be talking about was the subject of art itself. I don’t care if an artist uses a rattle can or a ball of cheese.

    The cold reality of art is that it is a specific thing and that means it’s exclusionary. When I say specific thing, I mean that art has certain qualities that traverse the medium and translate into anything that’s created within its laws. Not everyone who tries achieves this feat, in fact – very few do. This is one of the reasons why real art can command the pricing structure that it does, it’s a rarity.

    You seem stuck on the subject that I’ve never seen this mysterious graffiti thing you speak of. I’ve spent my time on the streets, OK? Let’s not allow an intelligent conversation to degrade into something where we have to bust out our credentials to talk about a subject.

  108. Ras, if you care to, go back over our conversation.

    I originally said “I certainly don’t think the merit of one’s work should be the reason it is valid. Collage, ‘found object’, sampling, etc. are all important strains of art, that have somehow become cannon fodder in a new IP age, and Hirst has chosen his side.

    Which actually makes some sense in the context of what we were talking about: Cartrain’s work being illegal.

    You challenged that, in a general sense, so I tried to show a circumstance where art was legal or illegal depending on the arbitrary notion of taste. I thought it was a pretty good point, about art itself, nothing really to do with graffiti.

    At that point the conversation turned into something different. Perhaps you assumed I was having a different conversation. Perhaps I assumed you were.

    Anyhoo. I’m done with it, having little energy or interest to continue on this tack. I hope you find BoingBoing an interesting place, beyond this thread, and will see you around in a different conversation.

    Welcome aboard.

  109. Hirst no longer has the right to call himself an artist. He is a humourless, over-rated, sellout who has’nt produced a relevant, or non commercially driven artwork for a long time. Kind of sad how money and power can corrupt the creative mind.

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