Oh yes, you knew this one was coming ! And at the risk of being obscenely predictable, it would be blasphemy to omit writing about Hirst’s retrospective and first solo exhibition at the Tate Modern.
From hearsay, one is often inclined to think Hirst a commercial cunt, or have mixed feelings at very least. Likely due to his direct engagement with auction houses for the selling of his multi-million $$ pieces… or the fact that he does not physically partake in the crafting of his pieces. But okay, in his defense, he has a degree from Goldsmiths College – renown for its conceptual art.
Anyway, it was with these mixed feelings and having already been blinded by seeing For The Love of God at an art fair pre-summer that I explored the exhibition (because despite the 14GBP setback, art that the public has a love-hate relationship with tends to be a must-see).
His early works were blah, and the cabinets filled with varying pills appeared to me somewhat vacuous. In fact, I was barely moved by the pharmaceutics-themed pieces.
I have always been a happy fan of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, from the title to Hirst’s motivation to attempt to instill this almost-exact fear of death by use of a gaping-mouthed shark suspended in ocean-appearing formaldehyde.
However, what I was especially intrigued by (from selection of a giant ashtray entitled Crematorium, a glittering room of 30, 000 man-made diamonds, butterfly pupae embedded canvases and a live rotting cow head) was two particular rooms with juxtaposing content. The first room with magnificent patterns made of butterfly wings that alluded to stained glass windows and #BlatantReligiousIconography; the second following it a giant piece entitled Dark Sun that rose above spectators covered in mounds of dead flies.
One knows it’s brilliant art if
1. One is transfixed to the spot examining carefully and with admiration a huge circle with dead flies stuck to it grotesquely unaware of time
2. One is further enticed to pay ridiculous sums of money worth more than one’s mortgage + pure-breed dog to purchase this huge art piece made of dead flies
The context (my excuse) enables the potentially arbitrary meaning of such a piece to be bewildering and thought-provoking. And when Hirst manages to construct this context for his work in such a masterful way, he is less a commerical cunt and rather a truly talented artist. Or rather, we are happy to ignore that he might be a commerical cunt.