Sep 12, 2008, 12:55PM

Damien Hirst: the Would-Be Michael Phelps?

About 70 or so years ago, the Olympics help competitions in such activites as painting and architecture design.

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The arts competitions were not part of the first modern Olympics in 1896. But the founder of the revived Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, had long toyed with the idea.

Writing in a French sports magazine in 1891, he proposed an event consisting of a 14-kilometer race and written essay. Not simultaneously.

That event never made it into the Games, but De Coubertin pressed on, declaring in a 1906 speech that it was time to "reunite in the bonds of legitimate wedlock a long-divorced couple -- muscle and mind."

The arts competition debuted at the 1912 Games in Stockholm where an American, Walter Winans, won the gold for sculpture. But he didn't stop there.

Winans also took silver in the 100-meter team running single shots competition, thus becoming the only Olympian in history to win both for sculpture and shooting.

One other Olympian was a double sports/arts threat, according to the book "The Forgotten Olympic Art Competitions" by Richard Stanton. In 1896, Alfred Hajos of Hungary won two golds in swimming. Twenty-eight years later, he got the silver in architecture for his design of a swimming stadium in Budapest.

  • I'm curious why splice enjoys repping Damien Hirst so much? I've read several glowing linked and orignal articles about his work. I find his work, in particular his preserved animals, to be overrated. The article about Hirst that I would love to read is one that discusses the way the Gagosian Gallery is reacting to his growing (perhaps to strong a word) habit of delivering works straight to the auction house. The Gagosian is certainly not hurting for cash, as exhibited by their upcoming Moscow show, but they must be at least a little anxious about the possibility of more popular artists directly putting their work up for auction.

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  • Hey Will. Your point about the Gagosian Gallery is apt, and is something I've been following myself (and at some point plan to write a column on). But in reference to your criticism, a search on the site for Hirst yields four results: this one, which has nothing to do with the artist other than the snarky headline; another Feed article which explains how Hirst is potentially screwing over the "art economy" (I admit, the linked article is not exactly negative, but it's not exactly positive—more like "look at this screwball artist"); and two columns that vaguely mention him.

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  • Yeah, I'm very aware that this article makes no mention of him - it was a good read and nice choice to link. I'm referring to the fact that I've seen him numerous times on the site and assumed that someone running the show must have an interest in him. I'm by NO means accusing someone of hyping him or anything like that. Some of his work, like the butterfly pieces, are neat. This whole subject and his growing fame has been something I've found interesting and look forward to reading your article in the future. No need to be defensive splice - keep up the good work!

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  • PS. TNR has had some interesting, albeit short articles on him that critique the sort of "look at this screwball artist" notion you listed above.

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  • Thanks for the heads up, Will. I'll definitely check them out.

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