Damien Hirst’s Post-Venice, Post-Truth World

Damien Hirst’s Post-Venice, Post-Truth World

With his oeuvre ranging from pointillism to cadavers as sculpture — the infamous shark in formaldehyde, shocking in 1992, was inspired by the film “Jaws,” he said — much of it was made by an army of helpers. Was that the impetus for this different show?

Mr. Hirst says no. Help is common, he points out, from Michelangelo to the modern day. “Whether you use lots of assistants or do it on your own,” he said, “as long as the result is what you want, it doesn’t matter to me.”

It might to collectors. This year’s personal touch could bump a value thinned after years of flooding. Representatives from Gagosian Gallery say the entire series has sold.

“If they’re all sold, it’s a testament to the fan base of Damien,” said Adam Lindemann, a New York collector who owns a handful of the artist’s work and said he doesn’t intend to sell. “People believe in him and follow him, those collectors aren’t just market conscious. They’re not buying as speculation.”

Asked about the Venice show when it debuted last year, Eli Broad, the philanthropist and museum founder, remarked that it was “kind of hokey.” Recently he called Mr. Hirst “an innovative artist who always moves in new directions.” The Broad would not comment on whether it had purchased any of the new work to add to its collection.


“Veil of Miracles” (2017) is one of 24 huge oil works in splashes of blood red, electric blue, rich gold — Mr. Hirst’s homage to the color harmonies of Pierre Bonnard.

Nathanael Turner for The New York Times

The public, however, still responds. At last week’s opening, A-listers from film and the arts stood in a line stretching around the block to get in.

Mr. Gagosian, who has represented Mr. Hirst for three decades (Mr. Hirst left him in 2012 but returned in 2016), said the series sold so quickly, he may have underpriced the paintings. “He’s never shown work like this, so we agreed on pricing that we thought was correct. They went from half a million for the smallest, $1.7 million for the larger ones.”

This isn’t quite a new style. Mr. Hirst did similar paintings in the early 1990s, but color was frowned upon back then, the artist recalled, and he “didn’t have the courage at the time” to embark on such a large scale so early on. These paintings he pumped out of his London studio over 12-hour work days while his team of carpenters, architects and electricians ensured that Venice remained on schedule. This is the anti-Venice, Mr. Hirst said, adding, “I won’t be rushing to do something like that again.”

“I just had a gap,” he continued. “My work for Venice stopped about a year before it opened. In a way that was a stroll compared to this.”

Another series of paintings, this one from 2016 and created by his team, will be shown later this month at Houghton Hall in England. They are an extension of his famous Spot Paintings.

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