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Although the questions posed about life and death by his shark and bisected cow    and calf vitrines are nebulous they do represent a proper response to the subject. Mortality is a topic with such a deep artistic pedigree that to find a new way of treating it appropriate to the current age was a considerable feat. And the works themselves still provoke more profound reactions in the viewer than the simple frisson of shock. Perhaps too, unlike so much of the rest of Hirst's output, they transmit the indefinable sense that they matter to the artist himself: they might be knowing but not entirely cynical.

With these pieces though he pickled his artistic soul too; all too few of his other works display the same integrity. Not only does he create very little of his art himself ("I don't think the hand of the artist is important on any level, because you're trying to communicate an idea") but he is uncomfortably free in borrowing others' ideas too ("You call it a tribute"). The spot paintings were pioneered by Thomas Downing in the 1960s; Joseph Cornell displayed pill bottles on shelves in 1943; John LeKay was making crystal-covered skulls in the early 1990s, and so on.

The accusations of plagiarism don't appear to bother Hirst too much, even when they have led — as with Hymn, his giant anatomy figure based on a children's toy — to an out of court settlement. Perhaps though, en masse, they will bother Tate visitors more. If the works there are neither his original ideas nor produced by his own hand, if there's no aesthetic rationale behind them, and if they are not genuine expressions of parts of the artist's personality, then their claims as significant works of art are very threadbare indeed. Hirst, for all his considerable skills as an entrepreneur and showman, might have proved himself too clever for his own good. 

Hirst also features in another Olympics-linked show, the V&A's British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age — a walk-on part in the room devoted to the fashionable Notting Hill restaurant Pharmacy. It is an exhibition intended to show not just how radically designers have rethought the objects used in daily life — from telephones to computers — but how they have also changed our mental and built environments. 

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