"Arrests in Theft From Hirst Exhibition" - Dave Itzkoff
When a pseudonymous graffiti artist who calls himself Cartrain stole some pencils from a Damien Hirst installation at the Tate Britain museum, he thought he was escalating a friendly feud with Mr. Hirst, the Turner Prize-winning artist. Instead, The Independent of London reported, Cartrain, 17, and his father were arrested, and Cartrain may be charged with damaging an artwork worth more than $16 million. Cartrain, who has previously appropriated images of Mr. Hirst’s famous diamond-encrusted skull, “For the Love of God,” for his own collages, admitted that on July 4 he took the pencils from the installation, called “Pharmacy,” which closed in August. After his arrest, Cartrain said he was told by officers that the pencils alone were worth more than $800,000. In a statement, the Tate Britain confirmed to The Independent that a box of pencils had been taken from the installation and that the theft was being investigated by the police.
Charlie Brooker: What links Lord Mandelson, Damien Hirst and the music industry?
Overvalued, irksome, conceited, pudge-faced, balding, boring, awful celebrity art nob Damien Hirst has apparently become embroiled in a ludicrous feud with a 19-year-old graffiti artist called Cartrain. Hostilities erupted in 2008, when Cartrain created a sarcastic collage that included an image of Hirst's stupid bling-encrusted skull "artwork" (the one that reportedly sold for £50m at auction, although that figure is disputed by virtually anyone who still retains some degree of faith in humankind).
When Cartrain's humorous collages were put up for sale online, Hirst reportedly complained to the Design and Artists Copyright Society. The website selling Cartrain's works buckled under legal pressure and surrendered the collages, along with an apology.
Obviously, this involved some chutzpah on Hirst's part, when you consider how much of his own output involves the witless appropriation of pre-existing material. When he isn't wowing his hateful audience of inconsequential moneyed idiots with meaningless collections of dots or bisected animal corpses, he's producing a whopping great reproduction of Humbrol's £14.99 Young Scientist Anatomy Set and selling it to Charles Saatchi for £1m – which would be an absolutely hilarious scam on a richly deserving target (a pretentious former ad exec who made his fortune heartlessly flogging cigarettes and Thatcherism to the masses) if the money went to a deserving cause rather than a nauseating irritant.
Anyway, so far, so 2008. But the Hirst-Cartrain battle resumed in July this year, when the latter strolled into Tate Britain and allegedly removed a box of pencils from Hirst's art installation "Pharmacy". Cartrain then created a mock ransom note, demanding the return of his collages in exchange for the pencils. If the artworks weren't given back, then the pencils would be "sharpened".
All rather daft and annoying. But a few weeks ago, Cartrain was arrested by Scotland Yard's art and antiques squad and told that the pencils had been valued at £500,000. The officers also initially arrested Cartrain's father, on the grounds that he was "suspected of harbouring the pencils".
The arrest may not be Hirst's fault, but sod it: let's appropriate any resultant outrage and apply it to him anyway. Cartrain's almost certainly a self-promoting gump and a poor man's Banksy – but he's 19, for heaven's sake. He's allowed to be an almost impossible arse.
Besides, unless it turns out to have been one huge, hilarious in-jokey art world wheeze involving the pair of them, it was Hirst who started it, mum. It was his behaviour in the first instance – throwing a legal fit over Cartrain's collages – that caused the current mess. It was an absurd tantrum over intellectual property rights, the big guy versus the little guy – just like Lord Mandelson's stupid proposal to have people who illegally download music kicked off the internet; a scheme that's outraged Billy Bragg, the drummer from Blur, thingy from Radiohead and one of Pink Floyd so much that they posed for a photograph and issued a press release and everything. And they were right to do so.
Apart from the occasional hardcore miser, the kind who'd shoplift at Oxfam, the vast majority of people who illegally download music from the internet do so because they bloody love music. They're resorting to theft because they're either too skint to afford 79p per track (often because they're students), or because what they're looking for is too obscure to find by commercial means, or because it's been leaked and isn't officially available and they're just too damn excited to wait. In the main, these are dedicated fans: precisely the same audience who in days of yore would've filled C90 cassettes with songs taped off the radio. In its heyday, the Radio 1 Sunday evening Top 40 countdown constituted the biggest file-sharing portal in British history, with millions of users hooked up simultaneously, mercilessly downloading content to their tape decks.
The government and the music industry should cheerfully view these people as eager young addicts. Let them have their illicit free samples because once they're hooked, they'll cough up later: when they've got more money, when the tracks are easier to find via legitimate means, or when they go to see an act they only discovered via free illegal downloads play live (and pay £30 for a ticket, £30 for drinks, and £30 for a poster and T-shirt).
But no. They're going to identify and isolate these fans and try to ban them from the internet. Christ knows how that's going to work. Perhaps they'll employ a uniformed enforcer to run in and physically knock the mouse out of your hand every 10 minutes. Maybe an email arrives, curtly informing you you've been fired from Google. Now clear your cache and get out. I guess the powers that be could pressurise local service providers, but if they start cutting off broadband connections willy-nilly, neighbourhood Wi-Fi "theft" will skyrocket. And how do you stop people using iPhones and other mobile internet devices? Smash their fingers with rocks? Position snipers on rooftops?
As in the tale of Hirst and Cartrain, it's the big guy who comes off looking small. Instead of figuring out new and imaginative ways to fleece consumers, the industry is throwing a tantrum. Trying to fight human nature and progress is an undertaking as doomed as repeatedly kicking a river in the hope it'll change course, and as mean as arresting a 19-year-old chancer for swiping a tosspot's pencils.
Could Damien Hirst's feud with teenage street artist Cartrain simply be down to his outrage at being so well caricatured? - Jonathan Jones
Damien Hirst's feud with teenage street artist Cartrain could yet become the most controversial story of Hirst's career. It really is vile for a rich man to use his power to bully someone who, after all, is just trying to emulate him by making art with found materials.
Presumably, what irks Hirst is that Cartrain used Hirst's diamond skull in a series of collaged portraits of the skull's creator. Hirst successfully demanded that all the young artist's works incorporating the diamond skull should be handed over, presumably to be destroyed.
But I can report that not every Cartrain collage featuring Hirst's skull has been seized. One exists and is in the public domain. I am its proud owner, having been given it by the artist. Here is a portrait for our time.
It catches Hirst in middle age perfectly, does it not? I particularly like the NHS spectacles, a cruel reference to Hirst's geeky specs. The Blue Peter badge is another hilarious touch.
Seriously – this is an excellent dadaist collage that makes a lot of "official" contemporary art look pretentious. I thought this when I chanced on a Hirst portrait that Cartrain infiltrated into the National Portrait Gallery last year, and I think it even more looking at this image. I wonder if the real reason for Hirst's antagonism is that Cartrain has done the same as all great caricaturists down the ages: created a vicious but insidiously memorable image of his target.
Anyway, it exists, free and unfettered. Hirst's lawyers cannot have this one.
© Cartrain 2017 | Terms and Conditions
Artists flout copyright law to attack Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst's work has been being 'ripped off' by a group of artists who want to make a point about the multimillionaire's stringent use of copyright law.
The artists include Jamie Reed, who designed the Sex Pistols' sleeve for the single God Save the Queen, former KLF band member Jimmy Cauty and Tracey Emin's former boyfriend Billy Childish. They have created a series of works containing images of Hirst's £50 million diamond-encrusted skull, For the Love of God.
Their action follows Hirst's decision to threaten to sue a 16-year-old designer who used an image of the skull in a collage to sell on the internet.
Cartrain, as he calls himself, said he was "shocked" to receive a letter from the Design and Artists Copyright Society demanding that he removed the works from sale and "deliver up" the original designs. He said at the time: 'I met Christian Zimmerman [from DACS] who told me Hirst had personally ordered action on this matter. I was wondering why he was coming after me." He handed over the collages and agreed to pay Hirst the £200 profits he had made.
Now the artists have rallied to Cartrain's defence.
In a tongue in cheek pledge on the website www.redragtoabull.com they have promised to raise £20 million from the sale of their Hirst-inspired art to make an exact replica of his diamond skull.
The works include a version of Reid's famous Sex Pistols poster, with the diamond skull replacing the head of the Queen in the centre of the Union Jack, for sale for £113.13.
Another features an adaptation of Cartrain's poster, of a picture of a man superimposed with Hirst's diamond skull as a head, reading a book.
In Cartrain's original the man was reading a book called 'How to be a Detective' but Cauty replaced that with one titled 'Copyright and Intellectual Property Law'.
Cauty, who famously burnt one million pounds of earnings from the KLF in the name of art, wrote to The Independent: "Unlike Cartrain and his gallery we are not intimidated by lawyers and if an injunction is issued, we will simply ignore it on the grounds of free speech."
Copyright, he suggested, needed to be "abolished and replaced with something more flexible".
Hirst's company Science Ltd has so far declined to comment.