There's a world of difference between taking inspiration from someone's work and outrightly plagiarizing their work. That difference seems to be lost on Damien Hirst, the English artist who replicated one of Nigeria's oldest artworks and passed it off as his.
Damien Hirst’s exhibition “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable” opened in Venice last month, ahead of the Venice Biennale, featuring a variety of sculptures, including a barnacle-encrusted sculpture of a golden sculpted head, simply titled “Golden heads (Female).”
The piece would have gone unrecognized, but one of the Nigerian artists exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, Victor Ehikhamenor noticed, while looking at Hirst’s exhibition, the bust's uncanny resemblance to an iconic Nigerian artwork – and one of Africa's oldest bronze artworks, the “Bronze Head from Ife,” or “Ife Head.”Especially obvious was that there was no reference to Ife or Nigeria. Victor took to Instagram to rightly vent his frustration.
"For the thousands of viewers seeing this for the first time, they won’t think Ife, they won’t think Nigeria. Their young ones will grow up to know this work as Damien Hirst’s. As time passes it will pass for a Damien Hirst regardless of his small print caption.
The narrative will shift and the young Ife or Nigerian contemporary artist will someday be told by a long nose critic “Your work reminds me of Damien Hirst’s Golden Head”. We need more biographers for our forgotten."