Shout Magazine

Mark Kostabi on Damien Hirst and Walter Robinson

If you don’t fight for your place, you will be airbrushed out of history. — Mark Kostabi

Whether you like Damien Hirst’s work or not, his show at the gigantic Larry Gagosian Gallery is a must-see this month. One of the most controversial artists working today, Damien Hirst is a powerful artist showing in a power gallery on the power block of Chelsea.

The whole thing reeks of power, which is fine, but not fair to Walter Robinson, a brilliant artist who anticipated “spin paintings” over ten years ago. Many articles will be written about Damien Hirst and his much anticipated season opener at the overwhelming Gagosian Gallery, considered by some as “the ultimate artworld stage.”

I am among these writers, but instead of focusing on Hirst’s latest offerings, I choose to shed some light on a little known injustice; Walter Robinson is fully acknowledged, among informed art historians, as the first artist to exhibit “spin-art” paintings in the context of serious contemporary art-an ironic and intellectually perverse gesture that united the visual language of lofty Abstract Expressionism and lowly kitsch.

Ten years after Robinson, Damien Hirst produced a virtually identical body of work. He, too, showed them in the context of serious contemporary art and was widely, but inaccurately, given credit as its innovator. His paintings now regularly fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars-even millions.

I predict that, eventually, art history will correct itself. These groundbreaking works by Walter Robinson (which paved the way not only for Damien Hirst by also Jeff Koons, who also followed Robinson into the realm of intentionally showing kitsch in a high-art context) will ultimately be properly recognized for their historical significance, and their monetary value will be adjusted accordingly.

In other words: Walter did it first-showed them at Metro Pictures (which is now on the power block), and Damien gets the millions. Is this fair? Wake up, artworld! Walter Robinson’s work can be seen at and

September 2000