British artist Damien Hirst opens his first major retrospective in typically brash style this week, with expensive merchandise sitting alongside key works like his dead sharks and diamond skull.
Starting from Wednesday, the Tate Modern gallery in London will showcase the work of the enfant terrible-turned-multimillionaire for five months as part of a festival of arts which has its finale at the Olympics 2012.
The exhibition features 70 works including classics like “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, a shark suspended in formaldehyde. Another major draw will be “For the Love of God”, a life-sized platinum cast of an 18th century skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds, which will be on display under tight security in the Tate’s turbine hall.
In addition to seeing Hirst’s artworks, visitors can also go to the gift shop and spend £36,800 ($58,915) on a plastic skull decorated in the style of one of Hirst’s so-called spin paintings. For £700 they can get a limited edition roll of wallpaper with prints from his butterfly series of paintings and a spot painting skateboard with signature for £480.
Hirst burst onto the scene with his early works, including the pickled shark, but his reputation in Britain has dipped in recent years, with criticism that much of his output is produced in workshops. The artist, however, rejected criticisms that he had become more of a self-promoter. “You get the Mona Lisa and then you get the postcards, the T-shirts, the mouse-pad and the mugs,” Hirst said. “One thing is the artwork and the other is getting it out there.”
The exhibition includes not only the sharks but other animals suspended in formaldehyde in glass cases; a cow and a calf (“Mother and Child Divided”), sheep and fish. Also on show will be “A Thousand Years”, featuring a cow’s head, flies and an insect-killing light element.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.