Sunday, April 09, 2017

Damien Hirst back from the deep - with an awfully expensive wreck

This is by way of a round-up of all the reviews of the latest Damien Hirst extravaganza with a summary of ratings and comments.

I've tried to sort out who has seen the exhibition as opposed to scanned the press release.

There aren't any images of the exhibition in this blog post because he's licenced all the images to Getty Images (click the link to have a look!) who have a fairly hefty charge for using them.

Synopsis of key points

Exhibition details

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable
9 April 2017 – 3 December 2017
Solo Exhibition

Punta della Dogana, Venice

Key Points

The Exhibition

  • Themes of Reality vs Unreality; Fake News; False Facts etc. 
  • based on the notion that these are artefacts recovered from the bottom of the sea - from the wreck of an old treasure ship discovered off the coast of East Africa
  • uses the methodology of museums to present the exhibits
  • a 60ft high headless demon can be found in the courtyard of Palazzo Grassi
  • some exhibits are clear spoofs e.g. they include the faces of people such as Pharrell, Kate Moss, Rihanna et al
  • the exhibition is on display in two museums in Venice - one is an ex-Palazzo and the other is Venice's old customs building, the Dogana da Mar - which is now an art museum
As always, I've always thought that the theme underpinning much of what Hirst does involves him thumbing his nose at the art establishment.

The Metrics

  • the project took 10 years
  • comprises a collection of 189 statues 
  • created by hundreds of craftspeople employed by Hirst
  • cost c.£50 million - according to Hirst

The Art Media

  • not everything is bronze or marble - there's also quite a lot is aluminium, polyester and fibreglass 

The Partner

  • Hirst's project partner - the man who owns the art galleries - is Francois Pinault
    • the fashion billionaire who owns luxury brands (e.g. Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen) and well-known everyday brands (e.g.) Samsonite - and Christies, the Auction House
    • the owner of one of the largest collections of contemporary art

Is it for Sale?

“Treasures” cost Mr. Hirst millions of dollars to produce and Mr. Pinault millions to present (exact figures were not disclosed by either man). Collectors who have been offered the works report that prices start around $500,000 apiece rising to upward of $5 million. With Damien Hirst’s market untested on such a grand scale, the question the art world is asking is, will he sink or swim in Venice?

In 2008, Hirst cut out the gallery and went straight to the Sotheby's auction house to sell a complete show Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, - the day before the crash - and made £111m. ($198 million) and created a new record for the sum raised by one artist at auction (unbelievable but true!)

This time around he seems to have created another project but this time a major contemporary art collector who owns the auction house - can collaborate on how it is marketed, presented and presumably sold.

In other words, this is what rich people do for fun....

...and to maintain the value of the art owned by art collectors and previously created by Hirst whose reputation has slipped in previous years.

Think of it as the second coming - or as one wag put it "Elvis returns to Vegas"!

The Reviews

Below are reviews I've read and are worth a read to get a perspective on this art market/museum/exhibition phenomenon.

Five star

The problem with this one is Jonathan is a fan. He wants to believe in the resurrection of Damien. Read it while tossing salt liberally over your shoulder.
The show is in fact a fiction about value and meaning, and the role of art as truth.

A blogger who has actually seen it

  • Cat Bauer Venice Blog | Unbelievable! Damien Hirst in Venice: Best Seen Through the Eyes of a Child What is most interesting about Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is that Damien Hirst has hit upon on a creative principle innate to novelists: you can create a fictional story; you can create characters -- you can create an entire world -- and bring that world to life.
This one's interesting because this individual has actually seen it and photographed it - and asked some children what they thought of it!

Trying to remain detached

The only review I read which had tested the water re prices and sales (see quote above)
Worth a read - I think Hettie Judah gets it about right.
Probably the best actual description of the show - with some acute comments.
You begin to realise that the fictional narrative in which we’re engaged — or not — is much like a video game, with pathways endlessly dividing into other story strands.

Not the usual exhibition review

Metro | Freaky, mind-bending photos from Damien Hirst’s ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ post-truth exhibition in Venice

This one has some great photos and some snappy comments!
Hirst’s latest exhibition makes you question the fakeness and reality of what you’re seeing, and why we go to museums at all.
Here’s the avant-garde artist’s take on cultcha.
The sculptures are spoofs of the kinds of artifacts people will queue for hours to see, from Medusa’s severed stone head…
Daily Mail | Could his £50million fake shipwreck be the downfall of Damien? LIZ JONES gets a sinking feeling at Hirst's 'sea treasures' spectacular

I rather liked this one. It has a strong sense of "the Emperor's New Clothes" about it
It's all very colourful, glitzy and embellished, and everyone is mwah-mwahing and clapping, but would you actually want to wear it?
There is an 18m tall statue in one courtyard, a Buddha made from one enormous piece of jade and a silver room, which is when, for me, it all became a bit 'ground-floor of Harrods'.

Previous posts about Damien Hirst 

Damien Hirst's paintings are really awful. I've seen better painting and better artwork in a primary school. It really is not worth spending any time on them.

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