Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Googling on: paint by numbers

In its exhibition WHIZZ BANG POP the Auckland Art Gallery is showing the Damien Hirst multiple Paint by Numbers (edition of 175). Lowering its market value at a stroke, they have taken the title literally and made themselves a ‘Hirst’ by following the paint-by-number instructions (it’s a bit like eating one of Paul McCarthy’s Chocolate Santas). More typically this work would be displayed as it is sold with the canvas untouched revealing its paint-by-number markings for the 90 spots. NOTE: The Auckland Art Gallery has since told us that when the work was purchased the edition had already been opened and the 'Hirst' painted presumably by its first owner. Word is that, perhaps inspired by this professional do-it-yourself spirit, a recent visitor prised open the paint box on display, took out one of the brushes, dipped it into one of the 90 pots of paint and had a go. Presumably their efforts to follow Hirst’s instructions will be conserved out.

Of course Hirst isn’t the first PBN artist. Warhol made a few back in 1962 as Do it yourself paintings (shop here) although now the worm has turned again and you can buy a PBN version of Warhol Campbell’s Soup can. The original Paint by numbers concept goes back to 1950 when the Palmer Paint Company in Detroit came up with the idea. Overall this kind of PBN has had bad press in the art world. It is seen as the painting equivalent of Truman Capote’s great sniff at Jack Kerouac's work, “That’s not writing, it’s typing.” Still, if you can muster up some irony you can buy sets here.