When Camp meets Art and Fashion: Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst (born 7 June 1965) is an English artist and the most prominent member of the group known as “Young British Artists” (or YBAs). Hirst dominated the art scene in Britain during the 1990s and is internationally renowned. During the 1990s his career was closely linked with the collector Charles Saatchi, but increasing frictions came to a head in 2003 and the relationship ended.

Death is a central theme in Hirst’s works. He became famous for a series in which dead animals (including a shark, a sheep and a cow) are preserved—sometimes having been dissected—in formaldehyde. The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a 14-foot (4.3 m) tiger shark immersed in formaldehyde in a vitrine became the iconic work of British art in the 1990s, and the symbol of Britart worldwide.Its sale in 2004 made him the world’s second most expensive living artist after Jasper Johns.

In June 2007, Hirst overtook Jasper Johns when his Lullaby Spring sold for £9.65 million at Sotheby’s in London. On 30 August 2007, Hirst outdid his previous sale of Lullaby Spring with For The Love of God which sold for £50 million to an unknown investment group. He is also known for “spin paintings,” made on a spinning circular surface, and “spot paintings,” which are rows of randomly-coloured circles.

In September 2008, he took an unprecedented move for an artist of his status by selling a complete show, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, at Sotheby’s by auction and by-passing his long-standing galleries. The auction exceeded all predictions, raising £111 million ($198 million), breaking the record for a one-artist auction as well as Hirst’s own record with £10.3 million for The Golden Calf, an animal with 18-carat gold horns and hooves, preserved in formaldehyde.

Hirst has admitted serious drug and alcohol problems during a ten year period from the early 1990s: “I started taking cocaine and drink … I turned into a babbling fucking wreck.”. During this time he was renowned for his wild behaviour and extrovert acts, including for example, putting a cigarette in the end of his penis in front of journalists. He was an habitué of the high profile Groucho Club in Soho, London, and was banned on occasion for his behavior.

Although Hirst participated physically in the making of early works, he has always needed assistants (Carl Freedman helped with the first vitrines), and now the volume of work produced necessitates a “factory” setup, akin to Andy Warhol’s or a Renaissance studio. This has led to questions about authenticity, as was highlighted in 1997, when a spin painting that Hirst said was a “forgery” appeared at sale, although he had previously said that he often had nothing to do with the creation of these pieces.





Campy art nouveau: AUBREY BEARDSLEY

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (August 21, 1872 – March 16, 1898) was an influential English illustrator, and author, today best known for his erotic illustrations.

Beardsley was born in Brighton. In 1883 his family settled in London.

His six years of major creative output can be divided into several periods, identified by the form of his signature. In the early period his work is mostly unsigned. During 1891 and 1892 he progressed to using his initials – A.V.B. In mid-1892, the period of Morte D’Arthur and The Bon Mots he used a Japanese-influenced mark which became progressively more graceful, sometimes accompanied by A.B. in block capitals.

He was aligned with the Yellow Book coterie of artists and writers. He was an art editor for the first four editions and produced many illustrations for the magazine. He was also closely aligned with Aestheticism, the British counterpart of Decadence and Symbolism.

Most of his images are done in ink, and feature large dark areas contrasted with large blank ones, and areas of fine detail contrasted with areas with none at all.

Aubrey Beardsley was the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, renowned for his dark and perverse images and the grotesque erotica, which were the main themes of his later work. Some of his drawings, inspired by Japanese shunga, featured enormous genitalia. His most famous erotic illustrations were on themes of history and mythology, including his illustrations for Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Wilde’s Salomé. He also produced extensive illustrations for books and magazines (e.g. for a deluxe edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur) and worked for magazines like The Savoy and The Studio. Beardsley also wrote Under the Hill, an unfinished erotic tale based loosely on the legend of Tannhäuser.

Beardsley was also a caricaturist and did some political cartoons, mirroring Wilde’s irreverent wit in art. Beardsley’s work reflected the decadence of his era and his influence was enormous, clearly visible in the work of the French Symbolists, the Poster art Movement of the 1890s and the work of many later-period Art Nouveau artists like Pape and Clarke.

Beardsley was a public character as well as a private eccentric. He said, “I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing.” Wilde said he had “a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair.” Beardsley was meticulous about his attire: dove-grey suits, hats, ties; yellow gloves. He would appear at his publisher’s in a morning coat and patent leather pumps.

Although Beardsley was aligned with the homosexual clique that included Oscar Wilde and other English aesthetes, the details of his sexuality remain in question. He was generally regarded as asexual—which is hardly surprising, considering his chronic illness and his devotion to his work. Speculation about his sexuality include rumors of an incestuous relationship with his elder sister, Mabel, who may have become pregnant by her brother and miscarried.

Through his entire career, Beardsley had recurrent attacks of the disease that would end it. He suffered frequent lung hemorrhages and was often unable to work or leave his home.

Beardsley’s emphasis of the erotic element is present in many of his drawings, but nowhere as boldly as in his illustrations for Lysistrata which were done for a privately printed edition at a time when he was totally out of favor with polite society. One of his last acts after converting to Catholicism was to plead with his publisher to “destroy all copies to Lysistrata and bad drawings…by all that is holy all obscene drawings.” His publisher, Leonard Smithers, not only ignored Beardsley wishes, but continued to sell reproductions and outright forgeries of Beardsley’s work.

Beardsley was active till his death in Menton, France, at the age of 25 on March 16, 1898, of tuberculosis.


Campy art deco: ERTE’

Romain de Tirtoff (November 23, 1892 – April 21, 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté, the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T.

In 1910–12 Romain moved to Paris, France, to pursue a career as a designer. In 1915 he got his first substantial contract with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and went on to an illustrious career that included designing costumes and stage sets.

Erté is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the art deco period in which he worked. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognizable, and his ideas and art influence fashion into the 21st century. His costumes and sets were featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, many productions of the Folies Bergère, and George White’s Scandals. In 1925, Louis B. Mayer brought him to Hollywood to design sets and costumes for a film called Paris. There were many script problems so Erte was given other assignments to keep him busy. He designed for such films as Ben-Hur, The Mystic, Time, the Comedian, Dance Madness and La bohème.

By far his best known image is Symphony in Black, depicting a tall, slender woman draped in black holding a thin black dog. The influential image has been reproduced and copied countless times.

Erté continued working throughout his life designing revues, ballets and operas. He had a major rejuvenation and much lauded interest in his career during the 1960s with the art deco revival. He branched out into the realm of limited edition prints, bronzes and art to wear. Museums around the world purchased dozens of his paintings for their collections.

A sizeable collection of work by Erté can be found at Museum 1999 in Tokyo.

“A resourceful woman who is almost downright plain can achieve the reputation of a beauty simply by announcing to everybody she meets that she is one.”




Campy explanation of Camp



“La presentazione per exempla, scelta a lungo quasi obbligatoria, non chiarisce – semmai, appunto, spiazza e seduce a una percezione ironicamente complice. Il camp comprende infatti figure disparate come Oscar Wilde e Madonna, Andy Warhol e Greta Garbo, David Bowie e Judy Garland, Fassbinder e Elton John, Philip Johnson e George Petty, Jean Cocteau e i Velvet Underground, Erte e le Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, Angela Carter e Aubrey Beardsley, Versailles e Gore Vidal, la Marchesa Luisa Casati e Robert Mapplethorpe, la mai-troppo-compianta Regina Madre e Pedro  Almodovar, Coco Chanel e Kenneth Anger, Philip Johnson e Cecil Beaton, Bette Davis e Divine, e tanti altri. Come può aggregare sfer culturali così distanti e ordini estetici altrettanto diversi – aristocrazia, piccola borghesia e sottocultura, il pantheon delle divine con il qui-e-ora mercatino delle pulci, il sublime estetico di Visconti con il trash di John Waters?

Il camp non può essere affrontato riparando alla sua eterogeneità, rendendolo didascalicamente codice condiviso e intellegibile. Marca di esuberanza, la cifra del camp è un travestimento psichico che lo rende volubile, evanescente, inafferrabile. Perchè il camp non è una proprietà oggettuale, pienamente catalogabile e condivisibile: è un processo dinamico, una relazione indiscreta fra oggetto e sguardo che improvvisa uno spazio di performance, una complicità ed un senso di solidarietà mobili, tanto esclusivi quanto necessariamente clandestini. Il camp accade: “trova luogo là dove sguardo e oggetto si travestono, fanno spazio a un narcisismo sfrenato e autoironico, e si mettono in scena a un grado secondo di plausibilità, innaturale e ‘fra virgolette’, diventando camp. In breve, il camp accade e eccede, attraversa e scardina le dicotomie stesse che sollecita e comprende l’inconciliabile.”

Introducing what Camp is with example, choice that seems to be forced, doesn’t make its meaning clear, but, indeed, confuses our ideas. Camp style really collects very different characters, such as Oscar Wilde and Madonna, Andy Warhol and Greta Garbo, David Bowie and Judy Garland, Fassbinder and Elton John, Philip Johnson and George Petty, Jean Cocteau and the Velvet Underground, Erte and the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, Angela Carter and Aubrey Beardsley, Versailles and Gore Vidal, the Marchesa Luisa Casati and Robert Mapplethorpe, the never-enough-lamented Queen Mother and Pedro  Almodovar, Coco Chanel and  Kenneth Anger, Philip Johnson and Cecil Beaton, Bette Davis and Divine, and many others.

How can Camp style mix together so distant cultural spheres and aesthetic orders – aristocracy, middle class and subculture, the pantheon of stars and the here-and-now  flea market, the sublime aesthetic of Visconti and John Waters’s trash?

Camp style can’t be faced trying to make sense to its heterogeneity, thinking to it as a shared and easily understandable code. Sign of extreme exuberance , the distinguishing mark of it is the psychological disguise, that makes it difficult to grasp, changable and fickle. Camp isn’t an object property, totally cataloguable and understandable: it is a dynamic process, an indiscreet relationship between the objec and the eyes, that while is seeing is, at the same time, improvising on a performance space, it is a sort of mobile complicity and solidarity, as much exclusive as necessarily clandestine.

Camp style happens: it “takes place” where the glance and the object disguise, where they make room for an unbridled and self-ironic narcissism, and they start acting a second  level of plausibility, unnatural and “in quotation marks”, becoming Camp. In a nutshell, Camp style happens and exceeds, it goes throug and takes off its hinges, and it comprises things that cannot be comprised at all.

What does Camp mean?


“L’etimo è incerto, forse derivato dal francese se camper o dall’italiano campeggiare (nell’accezione scenica), e prima ancora dalla radice indoeuropea kamp che si applica a tutto ciò che è curvilineo, flessibile e articolato (così dicono Detienne e Vernant in Le Astuzie Dell’Intelligenza Nell’Antica Grecia), e iscrive il camp nella logica del polimorfo, duplice, equivoco, inverso, del tortuoso, obliquo, ambiguo.

Il termine pare diffondersi a ogni modo in Gran Bretagna nel tardo Ottocento, a indicare una bizzarra commistione di ironia, allusività, effeminatezza e teatralità, distacco aristocratico, affettazione ed esteismo istrionico.

Uno spartiacque decisivo si colloca negli anni Sessanta, quando peraltro appaiono i primi scritti in merito che ne intercettano la salienza epocale e la portano al centro dell’attenzione pubblica, fornando un termine-chiave per gli Swinging Sixties e per la crisi delle gerarchie culturali – cultura alta/bassa, bello/brutto, maschile/femminile, autentico/falso, ecc – di cui si faceva teatro la rivoluzione pop di quegli anni.”

The etymology is uncertain, maybe it comes from the French se camper or from the Italian campeggiare ( in the stage meaning), and maybe from the elder Indoeuropean root kamp which refers to everything that is curved, twisted and curly, and puts camp in the stream of everything that is polymorphous, duble, ambiguous and  opposite, everything that is tortuous, equivocal, underhand and devious.

The word starts to spread in England in the latest nineteenth century and it alludes to a strange set of irony, effeminancy, theatricality, aristocrat detachment, and ham esthetism.

An important watershed is in the Sixties, when also the first texts about Camp style start blooming, written pieces that understand its crucial power and put it in the middle of pubblic attention, giving a keyword for the Swinging Sixties and for the cultural hierarchies crisis – high/low culture, good/bad, male/female, original/false, etc – that was mirrored in that years by Pop revolution.

Italian first campy personality: Alberto Camerini


WHO: ALBERTO CAMERINI ( Brasil, 1951) Italian songwriter and singer

WHEN: 1971 –  present

GENRE: punk pop, punk rock

WHY CAMP: the nickname “the Harlequin of rock”, live performance gesticulation, glamourous make-up, song texts






Italian latest dandy: Marco Castoldi alias MORGAN





Marco Castoldi aka Morgan (Monza, Milan, December 23rd 1972) is the singer, bass player, pianist of the Italian glam rock band Bluvertigo.

( Morgan’s favourite singer is David Bowie…obviously!)

NAME: Bluvertigo

YEARS ACTIVE: 1991- 2001 and 2008 – present

GENRES: glam rock, pop rock, psychedelic rock, alternative rock, new wave






WHY CAMP: dandy, changable, brave and bold, stricking but elegant, daring, strange, whimsical and verstile, eclectic, sometimes capricious, always insipred, cheeky and at the same time so shy, impudent but fragile, resourceful, with an incomprehensible mind and soul, his song texts