Internationally renowned artist Damien Hirst has come under fire today for his new Veil series – which indigenous artists from the community of Utopia in the Northern Territory have claimed are imitations of their unique style of dot art.
Hirst revealed his new collection this month to a swathe of big-name celebs, like Kanye West, Miranda Kerr and Michael Douglas.
According to Hirst, his collection is a nod to European art, and the French Post-Impressionists Georges Seurat and Pierre Bonnard. Each went for between 500,000 and 1.7 million bucks, and all have been sold.
However, Utopia elder and traditional artist Barbara Weir has spoken to ABC News, saying she sees a strong influence in Hirst’s work from her aunt, Polly Ngale, as well as late Indigenous artist Emily Kngwarreye.
“The painting [we’re] talking about has been passed down by Emily’s father, the same with Polly,” she said. “It’s not a made-up one, it’s a very important story.”
Utopia is situated near Alice Springs, and their painting style is produced with the purpose of educating young community members about their past.
“It’s a very important story, before it was done on the canvas it was done on our body and the story was passed down,” Ms Weir said.
Artists are expected to paint with no assistance, often producing landscape artworks from memory. Each painter also has their own distinctive style.
Ms Weir explained to ABC that the offense is in Hirst “copying” these distinctive styles.
“It actually hurts very much because shouldn’t people, if they’re artists themselves, they shouldn’t be doing something that belongs to someone else. The one that [we’re] talking about is done exactly like my people’s story. It was done by Emily and Polly Ngale. If he did copy that, he had no right. It looked too much like Utopia art.”
A spokesperson for Damien Hirst has since issued a statement on the accusations.
“Damien was unaware of the work or artist in question but he has huge respect for the importance of the value of art in all cultures,” the spokeswoman said.