AO on Site – London: Damien Hirst Retrospective at Tate Modern through September 9, 2012

April 9th, 2012

All photos on site for Art Observed by Caroline Claisse.

Damien Hirst‘s first official retrospective is on now at the Tate Modern in London. The retrospective spans two decades of the artist’s notoriously grand-scale artwork, featuring some 70 pieces. Often dealing with themes of life and death, Hirst’s works are known for their high prices and marketability. The show includes his spot paintings, pharmaceutical cabinets and vitrines, a diamond covered skull, as well as several large preserved animals and a room full of live butterflies.

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)

A Thousand Years contains maggots emerging as flies, feeding on a cow head, and dying by the electric fly trap.  A room full of butterflies titled In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies) includes an onsite “entomological consultant” to ensure the insects are  as comfortable as possible. Visitors may walk through and experience the room first hand, sectioned off by plastic curtains and full of fruit and plants.

A Thousand Years (1990)

Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)

With the catalytic tutelage of art patron Charles Saatchi, Hirst created his first high-profile piece one year after A Thousand Years—a shark preserved in formaldehyde titled The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living (1991). While the original work suffered deterioration damage, a reproduction is on view at the Tate, the replacement shark’s jaw slightly more open.

Away from the Flock (1994)

The shark work sparked a series of farm animals in formaldehyde, many acquired from the rural town of Devon, England. One such work, The Golden Calf, sold for £10.3 million at the Sotheby’s sale in 2008. Bloomberg reports that the sale price of Hirst’s artwork increased fivefold from 2002 to 2007, though a recent article in the financial times posits that the market value of the artist’s work peaked at the 2008 auction. At the Tate, sheep works Mother and Child Divided and Away From the Flock are on display.

Hirst’s controversial reputation has been largely associated with money and publicity. Most notably, the 2008 auction Beautiful Inside my Head Forever at Sotheby’s grossed more than any other single artist at auction in history at more than £100 million. On view in Turbine Hall at the Tate, the diamond-covered skull For the Love of God sold through White Cube for a reported £50 million. Both high-profile artistic developments not only prompted dialogue about aesthetic and metaphorical merit, but also about innovations to the structure of the art market. Hirst continues to draw comparisons to Andy Warhol in the deliberate over-saturation of his own market, aesthetic tendency towards commercialism and repetition, and connection to Larry Gagosian.

Damien Hirst, What Goes Up Must Come Down (1994)

The current exhibition follows the international Damien Hirst Spot Challenge that closed in March, held at all eleven Gagosian Galleries in New York, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Athens, and Hong Kong. To complete the challenge, gallery-goers were invited to register for a spot card and gain a stamp at each location. Those who achieved all eleven stamps received their own ‘free’ print, with a personalized inscription to the name on the card. Shortly thereafter, was launched, with round-the-clock camera surveillance of his artists’ studio—and large staff of assistants.

The formative years of Hirst’s career were spent aligned with the Young British Artists, the informally labeled conglomerate which included Tracey Emin, among others. Hirst experimented with drugstore motifs and pill-popping allusions with a Pharmacy series, also opening a restaurant which offered a dining experience surrounded by medicine cabinets. When Hirst graduated from Goldsmiths in 1989, the artist oversaw the group show of his classmates, Freeze, with Angus Fairhurst.

Lullaby, the Seasons (2002)

The artist is an avid collector of other artists’ work, and plans to open his own permanent London showcase in 2014, featuring his own conceived and collected pieces. In February, it was publicized that Hirst had begun a 500-home eco-friendly development in his current hometown of Devon. Hirst also signed onto the Ukranian Future Generation Art Prize, in which emerging Russian artists will have the chance to work with Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, and Andreas Gurksy at a value of $100,000. Next year Hirst will hold another retrospective exhibition in Doha, Qatar; the Qatar Museums Authority is sponsoring the current Tate show.

Tate Modern’s Chris Dercon and Nicholas Serota

Curator Ann Gallagher

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)

Lullaby, the Seasons

In and Out of Love (1991)

I am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds (2006) and The Anatomy of an Angel (2008)

Stimulants (and the Way They Affect the Mind and Body) (1991)

—D. Jefferson

Related Links:

Exhibition Site [Tate Modern]
Artist Site [Damien Hirst]
Hirst opens at Tate as price of artwork falls [Financial Times]
Death becomes him [Financial Times]
Damien Hirst at Tate Modern [Financial Times]
Art is “world’s greatest currency,” says Hirst [Reuters]
Damien Hirst, Tate Modern, review [Telegraph]
Art and the Middle East [The Economist]
Hirst’s butterfly takes a shine to Serota [The Art Newspaper]
Damien Hirst Tate Modern Retrospective Opens [The Guardian]
Damien Hirst – review [The Guardian]
Damien Hirst – review [The Guardian]
Away from the Flock: Damien Hirst’s Lamb in Limbo [The Guardian]
Damien Hirst: the artist we deserve [The Guardian]
Art News: Damien Hirst to exhibit his first museum retrospective in April 2012 at the Tate Modern for the London 2012 Olympics [Art Observed]
AO On Site – Opening of Damien Hirst’s Spot Challenge at Gagosian Galleries Worldwide through February 10, 18, and March 10, 17, 2011 [Art Observed]
Devon resident Damien Hirst is building 500 eco-friendly homes at Winsham Farm outside Ilfracombe, Devon, which rely on hidden wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels. He owns 40 percent of the development’s land, as well his art studio and a local restaurant, and hopes to attract “young, creative people” to the new property.  [AO Newslink]
David Hockney criticizes Damien Hirst’s use of assistants, claiming it insults skillful craftsmen [AO Newslink]
Damien Hirst video interviewed by TIME about his use of assistants, the origin of the spot challenge, and the meaning of his art overall [AO Newslink]
New York City amateur art dealer pleads guilty for forging authentication papers for fake Damien Hirst prints he had purchased on ebay [AO Newslink]
Ukrainian businessman Victor Pinchuk’s Future Generation Art Prize second biennial open to applications through May 6, 2012, with a prize of $100,000 and mentorship by artists Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Andreas Gursky, and Takashi Murakami [AO Newslink]