I never said Damien Hirst's work wasn't art, I said Damien Hirst is a third-rate artist.
Absolutely I don't believe that there is any transactional benchmark for something being considered art. A beautiful unsold work of art is still a work of art.
Also, it does seem relevant that this discussion ought to go out of two dimensions and include performance art. Performance art is often (not always) ephemeral, but no less so art because of its fleeting nature.
There is something that I can appreciate about the agony of artists. The suffering of Jackson Pollock and the obsession of Francis Bacon are particularly resonant.
Neither do I wish to advocate the tangent that posits that art requires suffering.
I do think art is always political. Anything that is remotely provocative and authentic is about some kind of politics. Those may be sexual politics, gender politics, or war.
War brings me to Picasso. I don't happen to believe that Picasso was the great artist of his day. Also, his happened to be a very interesting day.
In the other thread someone said they would want to live with Guernica (Picasso's magnum opus in my book). Hard to picture living with that as it is truly awful and the zenith of political art.
When I lived in Vicenza I used to take my exercise in the morning walking up the Sanctuary of Monte Berico where I was often able to commune with Paolo Veronese's Feast of Gregory the Great.
There is in that Veronese canvas all of the hope, suffering, hubris, destruction, glory, and paucity of the human spirit. It isn't only moving, it is an avalanche of power and one of the glories of Western art.
Across time and space I recently saw the Francis Bacon exhibit at the Tate Britain (by the way this is the pinnacle of curatorial excellence that I have witnessed in my short life). Here again I can feel so much concentration and authority achieved with an extraordinary economy of means that is in stark juxtaposition to a density of thought that I find it difficult to fathom.
The Bacons march across the psyche and leave their bootprints squarely on the sexual ID of the 20th century until they finally arrive at the magisterial black and tan triptych painted in 1991. This is a work of such titanic integration and purpose that you can see a lifetime of thought, pain, humiliation, and triumph distilled into three of the most beautiful canvases in the world. When I stood before them I had the feeling that everything had suddenly snapped into focus.
I am not sure there is any particular point to my rambling. Never would I wish to deny anyone their joy in something like Damien Hirst's diamond encrusted skull. It must somehow speak to the narrative of someone (perhaps Hirst himself, or his wealth managers).
Surely Paolo Veronese, Francis Bacon, and Damien Hirst all sit somewhere on the same continuum. It would be foolish to say that one is art while the others aren't. It is all art, it is all political, it is all sexual.