Damien Hirst’s Great Comeback

When two Venetian museums, the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, are holding one of the most heavily guarded art exhibitions in years, you can imagine the massive buzz being generated about the show. Anyone following the contemporary art scene doesn’t need more than a few guesses to get the right name, after all, “buzz” might as well be his middle name. Damien Hirst unveiled his Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable exhibition, and once again, he’s got the public and critics as divided as ever.

Photographed by Prudence Cummigns Associates, Copyright Damien First and Scince, Ltd.

The artist hasn’t had a major personal exhibition in Italy since 2004, so the locals were more than excited to witness his new, highly-anticipated show. In fact, the entire art world’s eye is focused on Damien Hirst right now. After Tate Modern’s 2012 retrospective of some of his greatest works, Hirst only presented the Schizophrenogenesis in 2014, which didn’t quite hit the spot, so everyone is keen to see if this new exhibition will bring him back on the glory path, or fall flat once more. Since there was also a feeling of dissatisfaction among critics who accused Hirst of relying too much on his past work and influences, it was somewhat clear that this new show simply had to be something fresh and new.

Subtle is definitely not a word one would associate with the works of Damien Hirst, and the Venice show amplifies that and takes it to another level. The overblown thematic exhibition is sprawled out over two venues, and the particular location of the show is by no means random. It is orchestrated during the Venice Biennale, making it the center of  current art world happenings. The show itself was five years in the making, and it represents a bold move by Hirst who obviously wants his statement be seen, heard and felt on a grand scale.

Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable is an elaborate tale in which the artist wants us to believe. It is a tale of redemption, artistic integrity, and creative spirit. It is also a tale of in-your-face mockery, amplified issues of commercialist society and perhaps even an artistic middle finger to all the critics, all done in the uniquely Damien Hirst style. But perhaps what hides under the layers of it all is the fact that he once more unleashed the wild imagination which propelled him to stardom back in the 1990s, and maybe we are now finally seeing Damien Hirst again at what he does best. The pieces on display are mind-boggling; from various objects covered with the natural accretions of coral and sea worms, to enormous wrecks of a legendary ship which evoke a feeling of something mythological and bigger than life. The Kate Moss figure made of bronze and gold, genuine emeralds as eyes in Tadukheba, diamond nipple rings on torsos and many more details hint that quite a lot of money was spent in creation of this exquisite collection. Apparently, it was all completely made with the artist’s personal money, more than 50 M GBP (64.8 M USD) to be exact. Was it money well spent? All we can say for sure is that, whether you love him or hate him, Damien Hirst has done it again; he is back.


Damien Hirst

Treasures of the Unbelievable

April 9 – December 3, 2017

Palazzo Grassi, Punta Della Dogana

P.IVA 01959810274

San Samuele 3231

30124 Venezia, Italia


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