British artist, Damien Hirst, arriving at the Gagosian Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side last night, for the opening of his show “End Of An Era.”

For the last 20 years, Mr. Hirst’s ouvre has been largely suspended in formaldehyde, emphasizing death — both material and spiritual, and making him a fortune. He is the wealthiest artist in the world today.

In this “conceptual” era, the hustlers from Washington to Wall Street and the Art World have done well for themselves, in the short term, by getting naive people to commit to “nothingness.” Mr. Hirst’s genius is in being in the Art World but also being its biggest critic, with something important to say.

The show includes a severed bull’s head with golden horns and crowned with a solid gold disk suspended in formaldehyde and encased in a golden vitrine.

Also included in the exhibition is Judgement Day (2009) a thirty-foot long gold cabinet filled with close to 30.000 manufactured diamonds, along with a series of photorealist paintings of famous diamonds.

Coincidently, several days ago a jewelry store in the neighborhood was held- up with a million dollars worth of diamonds taken and an employee killed, because he didn’t want to give up the diamonds. One gets the impression that Mr. Hirst is using the diamonds and the head of the bull to try and raise people’s consciousness about the growing emptiness in American society — emanating from various forms of idolatry. If that is true, he picked a good neighborhood to start in.

Across the street is the Carlyle Hotel, where President John F. Kennedy is reported to have spent time with Marilyn Monroe and where John Kennedy Jr. had breakfast the day he died, in the 1999 plane crash.

It is also the neighborhood of Tom Wolfe, author of “Bonfire Of The Vanities.” Bernie Madoff lived just a few blocks away. He used to collect bull themed trinkets.

Someone asked Hirst what he meant by “end of an era?” He said “then and now.” I asked him if that might include Bernie Madoff  — he smiled, nodded and then held out his fist —  ringed with skulls.

Photographs: Stephen Wise