Out of sync

ART IN FOCUS
Sep - 2017

Damien Hirst Punta della Dogana

Damien Hirst’s most ambitious and complex project to date was met by a huge, if divided, critical response.
ArtNews: “Damien Hirst’s doubleheader in Venice is undoubtedly one of the worst exhibitions of contemporary art staged in the past decade.
The Economist: “may be the most ambitious exhibition ever mounted by an artist”.

“To do a show in arguably one of the most extraordinary artistic settings at a time when Venice will be the focus of collectors and critics – it’s like a musician deciding to make his long-awaited comeback at Wembley Stadium,” says Oliver Barker, chairman for Europe at Sotheby’s and the man who orchestrated Hirst’s notorious 2008 auction Beautiful Inside My Mind Forever.

Treasures “taps into a desire for belief, for a connection with the past,” Hirst told FT Magazine this weekend. “What’s unknown is how it will be perceived, but maybe I am worrying more than is necessary, really, because people are willing to believe. I think they want to believe.”

Hirst is “facing his critics head on, not running to the hills,” Barker says. He is also, as is so often the case with Hirst, already attracting controversy.

Damien Hirst’s most ambitious and complex project to date, ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ has been almost ten years in the making. Exceptional in scale and scope, the exhibition tells the story of the ancient wreck of a vast ship, the ‘Unbelievable’ and presents what was discovered of its precious cargo: the impressive collection of Aulus Calidius Amotan – a freed slave better known as Cif Amotan II – which was destined for a temple dedicated to the sun.

The exhibition is displayed across 5,000 square meters of museum space and marks the first time that Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, the two Venetian venues of the Pinault Collection, are both dedicated to a single artist.

Damien Hirst first rose to public recognition in 1988 during his time studying at Goldsmiths College in London, when he conceived and curated “Freeze,” a group exhibition of his work and that of his contemporaries at Goldsmiths. In the near quarter century since that pivotal show, Hirst has become one of the most prominent artists of his generation. Through work that includes the iconic shark suspended in formeldahyde, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), to the platinum cast of a human skull set with 8,601 flawless diamonds, For the Love of God (2007), Hirst takes a direct and challenging approach to ideas about existence. Of the latter, art historian Rudi Fuchs has said, “The skull is out of this world, celestial almost. At the same time, it represents death as something infinitely more relentless. Compared to the tearful sadness of a vanitas scene, the diamond skull is glory itself.” His work calls into question our awareness and convictions about the boundaries that separate desire and fear, life and death, reason and faith, love and hate. Hirst uses the tools and iconography of science and religion, creating sculptures and paintings whose beauty and intensity offer the viewer insight into art that transcends our familiar understanding of those domains. “There [are] four important things in life: religion, love, art and science,” the artist has said. “At their best, they’re all just tools to help you find a path through the darkness. None of them really work that well, but they help. Of them all, science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be all right in the end…”

Damien Hirst (b. 1965) in Bristol, England was included in the 1992 Young British Artists exhibition at Saatchi Gallery in London, and in 1995, he received the Turner prize. Solo exhibitions include “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples (2004); “A Selection of Works by Damien Hirst from Various Collections,” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2005); Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2005); “For the Love of God,” Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2008); “Requiem,” PinchukArtCentre, Kiev (2009); “Life, Death and Love,” Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague (2009); “No Love Lost,” Wallace Collection, London (2009–10); “Cornucopia,” Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, Monte Carlo (2010); “For the Love of God,” Museo di Palazzo Vecchio, Florence (2010); “Damien Hirst: A Retrospective,” Tate Modern, London (2012); “Relics,” Qatar Museum Authority, Gallery Al Riwaq, Doha (2013–14); Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (2015); and “The Last Supper,” National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2016). Hirst’s work is included in many important public and private collections throughout the world. His new project, “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” will be on view at Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana through December.

“Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” will be on view at Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana through December. 3, 2017.

CREDITS
Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable |
filmed by Out of Sync | Venice May 2017
Camera and edit | Per Henriksen
Producer | Out of Sync
Artworks courtesy | Damien Hirst
© Out of Sync 2017

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