In 1995, Rachel Campbell-Johnston said Damien Hirst created one of the “pioneering” sculptures of our time The times. Justified The physical impossibility of death in the mind of a living man, the work consisted of a dead shark floating in a tank of formaldehyde, “a malevolent presence trapped in an eerie artificial sea”. To look at it was “to face the finality of death behind the safety of glass”; Anyway, I left “reverently”.
Almost 30 years later, Hirst, now “Britain’s richest artist”, is still whipping up the same idea, at sky-high prices and ever-declining returns. This exhibition brings together some 25 formaldehyde works created by the artist over the past three decades, including the carcasses of a “strange zoo” of animals, from sheep to zebras, all “distorted, mutated and sliced” in service became his increasingly tiring art. It’s a depressing spectacle that makes you “sad for the animals and desolate for Hirst.”
Viewing these works is a truly unpleasant experience, Harriet Lloyd-Smith said in background. But beyond the “shock factor” and silly puns — One Piece here, a “rotating, multi-part mobile made of individually inlaid fish” bears the title school daze – Hirst’s formaldehyde sculptures remain as “poetic” as they are “grotesque”. Cain and Abel (1994), for example, sees two black and white calves floating in the “blue colored liquid”; her “youthful lightness” immortalized.
It’s still more “amazing”. The Beheading of John the Baptist (2006), in which a cow’s decapitated head rests on a butcher’s block, the remaining remains scattered on a “clinical white-tiled floor”. Not the “execution scene” itself is startling, but a clock on the wall showing the time of death: 11:53.
One could very easily put on a large exhibition of Hirst’s early work, said Jonathan Jones in The guard. Unfortunately this is nothing like that. What once seemed essential to life now feels “empty and artificial.” Eventually he stopped feeling it.” The more art history cites his works, “the sillier they seem.” Chopping up a cow as a reference to Caravaggio’s painting of the Beheading of John the Baptist was “just a damn waste”. The quest for oblivion (2004) is a real-life recreation of Francis Bacon’s 1946 work imagewith an umbrella positioned over an empty coat on a chair “between beef and butcher’s tools.”
But while Bacon’s work remains a chilling masterpiece, it is just plain “mundane.” Even a recreation of Hirst’s acclaimed 2008 shark is no better: whatever depth the original conveyed “quickly vanishes” given the artist’s progression “from raw young punk to pretentious money-lover.” This is a “cold, industrial” show packed with “art for the oligarchs’ penthouses.”
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https://www.theweek.co.uk/arts-life/culture/art/956202/damien-hirst-natural-history-an-empty-and-artificial-show Damien Hirst: Natural History Review