Posts Tagged ‘Damien Hirst’

Cardiff Met MFA group photo

Cardiff Met MFA group photo

Magnificent Obsessions

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The exhibition

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.42.0214 rooms or alcoves displaying selections from the private collections of 14 post-war artists from around the world, alongside one or two works by each artist in question, the idea being that knowing something about the artist’s tastes and favourite objects throws light on their work. From cookie jars to netsuke, scarves to spacedogs, taxidermy to trinkets, explore the personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists and discover more about their inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions and what drives their eccentric desire to collect. Taking a different approach to the typical art exhibition, this show primarily looks at the art collections put together by artists themselves; encompassing a broad range of styles and disciplines. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.07.55 I visited the Exhibition at The Barbican yesterday.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector 12 February 2015 – 25 May 2015

This is the first major exhibition in the UK to present the fascinating personal collections of post-war and contemporary artists. Ranging from mass-produced memorabilia and popular collectibles to one-of-a-kind curiosities, rare artefacts and specimens, these collections provide insight into the inspirations, influences, motives and obsessions of artists. While some artists are connoisseurs, others accumulate hoards of objects, never letting anything go. Many live with and make direct use of their collections and others keep them under wraps or in storage (e.g. Andy Warhol). Collecting objects for research and study is key to the practice of many artists in the exhibition. Presented alongside examples of their work, their collections, in turn, help to elucidate their art.

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Featured artists:
Hiroshi Sugimoto, b.1948

Japanese photographer, spent decades as a dealer in Japanese artefacts and folk art, keeping many of the best pieces for himself, and eventually exhibiting the works intermingled with his own photos, the ones featured here being odd b&w photos of Madam Tussauds exhibits, The Hanging and Benjamin Franklin. Natural History dioramas. Objects from the Odawara Foundation. Jaques Gautier D’Agarty  anatomical / autopsy illustration plates. The picture of Benjamin Franklin by Hiroshi Sugimoto, 1999, gelatine print is of exceptional high quality.

Damien Hirst, (b. 1965)

Murderme Collection. Taxidermy abject oddities and fakes; Art and natural history pieces; Chimps head supported only by its arms. Butterfly and beetle collection (Etymology series, 2013); 7 legged lamb; anatomical models and so on. Hirst’s his selected work is Last Kingdom (2012) from the Entomology series, echoing the display cabinets of Victorian animal collectors, pinning same-sized specimens of butterflies spiders etc into neat rows. Hirst is a keen collector of contemporary art but also of natural history objects, tools and specimens and we are treated to glass cases containing a stuffed lion, a stuffed vulture, stuffed armadillos and a neat array of human skulls.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Vitrine of objects owned by Damien Hirst Barbican Art Gallery - 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images Courtesy Murderme Collection

Vitrine of objects owned by Damien Hirst Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery – 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images Courtesy Murderme Collection

Sol LeWitt (1928- 2007)

Minimalism and conceptual art; repetition and variation within a closed self imposed system. EDO period japanese wood block prints from 1800s… Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 13.37.39* (Hmm, did Edvard Munch base The Scream on similar Japanese wood block prints?) Sol Lewitt, Autobiography, 1980/2012 – is a collection of B/W digital prints with 60 framed sheets (displayed 20 rows 3 columns), nine images per sheet. The images displayed were of household objects grouped by type in his personal collections: lamps; shades; boxes, tins; nails; timepieces; electrical items; phones; fans; seashells; photos, books, magazines; furniture, handles; toys; cups, glasses; tools, string; office equipment; windows, shutters, bars; and so on.

Hanne Darboven (1941 – 2009) – Hamburg.

The rigid seriality of Darboven’s work is personalised by the inclusion of her environment or, of her objects and possessions. Mitarbeiter und Freunde (co-workers and friends), 1990 – Here 91 framed sheets are displayed showing photographs of subjects alongside indecipherable scribbles. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 13.38.01 Objects from her studio, Objects form her House – Hanne Darboven, is an eclectic collection that includes a life-size painted wooden horse and a life-size wooden King Cobra lamp stand. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 13.11.32

Dr Lakra, (b. 1972) Mexico, lives and works in Oaxaca, Mexico..

The artist blurs techniques, mediums and cultures, a hybrid visual vocabulary, distilled from a range of sources. Dr Lakra – Punos (Punch), 2003. Punos Dr Lakra Frente al Espejo (The Mirror), 2003.

The Mirror

The Mirror

Mosquitoes, 2003.

Installation view

Installation view

– are “tattoed” images picturing semi-naked subjects that the artist has intricately drawn on using influences from traditional tattoo designs. Dr Lakra and Kate McGarry.

kate mcgarry dr lakra

Dr. Lakra, Installation view, ‘Magnificent Obsessions’ at Barbican Centre, 2015. Courtesy Barbican Centre.

Artist biography:

Dr. Lakra, Installation view, 'Magnificent Obsessions' at Barbican Centre, 2015. Courtesy Barbican Centre.

Dr. Lakra, Installation view, ‘Magnificent Obsessions’ at Barbican Centre, 2015. Courtesy Barbican Centre.

The wall display of a collection of album covers were loosely connected under the theme of Tattoos.

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* (I own quite a few of the ones on display!) Scrapbooks: models, anatomy, ethnography, totems, faces made from anatomy, advertising (vintage Ads).

Jim Shaw, (b.1952), Michigan.

In this exhibition ‘All the unknown painters that painted the thrift store paintings are the actual painters of the paintings’ – Jim Shaw. Thrift store collection and garage sale items of American popular culture. A developed visual aesthetic, found inspiration in his formative influences and a love of comic books and sci-fi. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 13.36.31 Appeal in thrift store paintings lies in their PROFOUND UNDESIRABILITY (*an important concept to me). Cheap forgotten and available to a modest budget. `he selected works of a surreal nature, disturbing/dreamlike – but no interpretation or validation.


Shaw often works with intense cycles of narrative using motifs from his life and unconsciousness to explore and question notions of belief, identity and society. Decapitated Okapi 1 and 2, 2014, Jim Shaw, are surreal images bound up in Shaw’s fictional religion of “Oism”. The heads of “robber barons” growing alarmingly from the severed neck of a beautiful, endangered Okapi. Represents the corrupt power of the founders of American capitalism of 19th C. includings its top industrialists (Henry Ford, Rockerfeller, etc). The aged worn surface lends it gravitas and a sense of performance. JIM SHAW Decapitated-Okapi-1-Decapitated-Okapi-2-2014

 Arman, (1928-2005) French-born American artist

whose selected work is the fabulous Home Sweet Home II (1960), a cabinet stuffed with WWI gas masks.Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 13.08.21

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 13.36.03 His alcove was sparingly decorated with a selection from his collection of wonderful African (and a few ancient Greek) masks and helmets. Like a little bit of the British Museum landed in an artist’s studio. This was by far the most ‘tasteful’ room, by which I probably mean the one which looked most like a typical exhibition or gallery space with the objects hung sparingly in their own space, the other rooms being much more cluttered.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Arman room Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015  © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

African masks in the Arman room Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

 Peter Blake, (b.1932) London.

his selected work is Kamikaze (1965) normally resides in Cardiff’s National Museum of Wales (I actually went looking for it specifically two weeks ago and it had vanished… it was here!). Blake will be forever associated with the cover of the Beatles Sergeant Pepper album which typifies a kind of 60s amused, nostalgic fondness for the relics of English life, and that’s very much the feel of his collection, exemplified by – among a lot else – nostalgic metal shop signs, a large collection of elephant figurines, a large collection of Punch and Judy puppets, a ventriloquist dummy, a wall full of masks from many many cultures and traditions.

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Peter Blake’s ethnic masks collection Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015

Peter Blake's dolls collection Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015  © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Peter Blake’s dolls collection Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Cabinet of Curiosities (from Walter Potter Museum), contains taxidermy oddities including: Mermaid, Pigosaurus, six-legged lamb, Jack-a-lope. Blake’s cabinet collection full of elephants is displayed in deference to Howard Hodgkin’s Mughal Indian paintings.

Howard Hodgkin,(b.1932)

selected work In the studio of Jamini Roy (1976-9). Hodgkin acquired an interest in India and Indian art when he was at school at Eton and his is a small room hung with ten or so, presumably valuable and choice, examples of classical Indian art which left me cold, apart from the depiction of Death cult Goddess KALI whose image I went searching for in the Berlin museum of Ethnographie as part of research into Creative Destrustion/Destructive Creation. I liked the Persian carpet, though. The Indian art prints span Mughal, Rajasthani and Deccani eras. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 13.39.34

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Edmund de Waal, (b.1964)

his selected works are from the collection of a private man (2011), several shelves of small round or tubular white ceramics, little ivory carvings, pottery, shells and fossils. De Waal is a London-based potter and writer who won a wider audience with his book The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010) and who is represented here by stones and fossils and some of the 264 netsuke(small hand-carved objects used in traditional Japanese dress as toggles for kimono robes) which he inherited from his great-uncle Ignace Leon von Ephrussi. “A hare with the amber eyes” is prominently displayed but I was surprised by a tiny ceramic of ‘Ama suckling an octopus’, which reminded me of some of the images in the British Museum’s Shunga exhibition.

Martin Parr, (b.1952)

British photographer who specialises in the tackiness of modern life. His works were five photos of iconic tourist destinations looking uncomfortably packed and thronged – titled Notre Dame 2012, Venice 2005 (pigment prints) and Macchu Piccu 2008. Since the 1970s Parr has been collecting thousands of tourist postcards, with which his exhibition room is covered – b&w or early technicolour images of late 1950s/early 1960s cars, tower blocks, holiday resorts, Trust House Forte motorway service stations, the Totton bypass (!?), airplane travel, 1960s cars, chimney demolitions, car wrecks, bonfire construction, dead mammals, battleships, suffragettes and strike scenes, shoes/clogs. – funny, evocative, nostalgic, a vanished world. This major collection of postcards commemorates spans of the 20th C. and includes memorabilia from Butlins where he once worked. 25 postcards and sets of 6 images per frame. Not to mention his collection of memorabilia commemorating Soviet space dogs, represented here by no fewer than 43 space dog mementoes.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Some of Martin Parr's space dog collection Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015  © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Some of Martin Parr’s Space Dog collection Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Andy Warhol,
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Fish screen print wallpaper, 1983. screenprint acrylic on linen; Airplane, Robot, Space ship, Monkey, Apple, Frog, Clown, Police car.

(1928-87) his selected works are some fish-themed wallpaper (1983) and the famous silkscreened boxes paint on plywood (1964) Brillo, Heinz, Campbell’s. warhol plywood boxes Warhol bought and hoarded compulsively: when his collection was auctioned off after his death it turned out to contain over 10,000 objects and took ten days to flog: a vast treasure trove of every conceivable kind of junk, kitsch, novelties, consumer objects. Warhol was exited by his acquisition and possession of things rather than their use or appreciation and often left them in a closet still in their wrapping. His collecting was said to be a compensating for an early life of devoid of possessions, many of his collections centred on childhood artefacts. In one cabinet stood a selection of the ‘famous’ collection of 175 kitsch ceramic cookie jars he was known for.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Some of Andy Warhol's cookie jar collection Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015  © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

A small sample of Andy Warhol’s cookie jar collection Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Pae White,

b.1963) Los Angeles-based, Pae has large collections of ‘the kitsch, the decorative, the everyday’, including no fewer than ‘3,000 textiles by prolific American designer Vera Neumann (1907–93)’.

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Pae White's collection of Vera Newman scarves. Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015  © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Pae White’s collection of Vera Newman scarves. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Cloud Clusters, 2005 is a suspended installation of powder coated wire cubes. A selection of these fabrics, are hanging from the ceiling in her alcove in her installation and it is mildly dreamy to walk among them letting the delicate multi-coloured forms brush against your face’. Kitsch decorated flags, tea towels are displayed like Buddhist prayer flags, various textiles with multitudes of designs and sizes from curtains and bed spreads to handkerchiefs.

Martin Wong/Danh Vo,
Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector - Installation images Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015  © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

I M U U R 2 by Danh Vo, based on Martin Wong’s collection Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector Barbican Art Gallery 12 Feb – 25 May 2015 © Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images

Collection reflecting shared appreciation of east Asian art and culture, American and kitsch. Chosen artwork displayed, Vodka & Tonic, 2012. applied gold leaf to cardboard box. Things I noticed; A collection of Donald Ducks strangely resembled the collection of Buddha statues.

The collection of African ethnic art was starkly juxtaposed next to the American portrayal of black people as gollywogs, “sambo” and “house niggers” on 1950s & 60s consumer paraphernalia.

There is nothing so beautiful as a list

The show includes:

sculptures, statues and souvenirs, cut-outs, curiosities, collectables, candelabra and cuckoo clocks, postcards, prints, pots and photographs, pianos, helmets, masks, ceramics, boxes, packing cases, paintbrushes, crates, typewriters, birdcages, 1960s badges, old games, golfballs, marble skulls, stuffed birds, stuffed armadillos, anatomical models, a box of glass eyes, a toilet, cuckoo clocks, wall clocks, musical instruments, chamber pots, clay pipes, dinosaur bones, paperback books, a cheeseburger-shaped lampstand, Japanese armour, radios, antique pistols, street signs, Soviet space dog mementoes, wind-up toys, old movie magazines, a life-size cut-out of Charlie Chaplin, tattered newspapers, desk clocks, cigarette cases, a barometer, cigarette holders, scarves, bedsheets, duvet covers, towels, shells, fossils, stones, ivory carvings, metal shop signs, classic dolls, trinkets, Mr Punch, cabinets of curiosities, Victorian screens, ventriloquists’ dummies, vintage postcards, mouldy mousetraps, old bottle openers, matchboxes, buttons, bills, balls, stalagmites and stalactites, a postal order, a boot hook, Roman pots, leaves from Hadrian’s villa, a stone from the Brontes’ house in Haworth, wrestling memorabilia, a complete set of leather-bound Encyclopedia Britannicas, ceramic fruits, plastic Donald Ducks, coffee, tea and tobacco tins, a champagne bottle, statue of liberty souvenir statuettes, novelty lamp stands, bird feathers, teaware, Chinese scrolls, ‘sambo’ figurines, a big stuffed lion, an enormous wooden horse…

Blog: Artist Dr LAKRA

People from the neighbourhood would go to the dumpsters and collect the things they think are valuable…’

Dr Lakra takes us back to the Mexican chacharas of his childhood, the treasure trove markets where his collection first began. Delve into Dr LAKRA’s wild and eclectic playlist via ” target=”_blank”>Spotify playlist

Blog: Artist Peter Blake

‘I was over collecting and collecting slightly madly…’

Inspired by Howard Hodgkin’s Indian influenced art and collection, Peter Blake describes how he came to collect the miniature elephants, his collecting habits and the need for a collecting ‘safety valve’… Blog: Artist Jim Shaw In Conversation: Jim Shaw – Wednesday 25 March 2015 In an extract from the Magnificent Obsessions catalogue, artist Jim Shaw talks to curator Lydia Yee about this collecting habits from the first paintings he bought to the strange thrift store findings…  Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 12.07.49

In this exhibition ‘All the unknown painters that painted the thrift store paintings are the actual painters of the paintings’ – Jim Shaw.

Blog: Artist Pae White

‘She’s got a bit of a magpie mentality… she would collect shiny things’

Growing up amongst the glamour, style and celebrity of the likes of Marilyn Monroe and friends, Pae White’s magpie eye developed – associate curator Sophie Persson looks back at her indiscriminate love of collecting and her beautiful jumbles of Vera Neumann pieces. (my photographs are a slightly poor quality… this is mainly due to the fact that I was hiding the camera as photography was banned in the exhibition… what an incorrigible rebel I am…)

* just found the entire exhibition TEXT and CAPTIONS



Artist Roman Signer, Slow Movement,  2015.

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The concept of the ‘objective correlative’, was first developed by T.S. Eliot:

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.

– T.S. Eliot, Selected Prose (Harmondsworth 1965), p. 102.

In general in Art, formal innovations don’t just occur for their own sake but because the artist has something new to say which requires these formal innovation for it to be communicated.

Arguably, this could be said of the 1997 installation pieces of Damien Hirst during the YBA’s SENSATIONS R.A. exhibition; constructing an object (using unusual and original materials) which will be the objective correlative of certain thoughts and emotions, of certain felt ideas.

Thus Hirst’s shark piece works as the ‘objective correlative’ of death in at least four ways:

  1. it is an actual dead shark;
  2. the shark is a powerful cultural signifier of the fear and threat of death;
  3. the curvature in the glass of the tank containing the shark reinforces point 2 by making the shark appear to move threateningly in the direction of the viewer; and
  4. the title of the work, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, works in tension with the piece itself and with the taboo on ‘death’ in our culture.

Hirst’s use of real dead animals is an example of this.
The one object serves as an objective correlative for the fact, fear, threat and taboo of death.

I think, it forces a face to face confrontation with the brute fact of death upon a blasé modern audience which has superabundant images of death while its reality becomes ever more removed and hidden.

Short of exhibiting an actual dissected human corpse this was about as far as Hirst could go. Though Gunter von Haagen did eventually go further with his public televised autopsies.

In A Thousand Years (with its cow’s head, breeding maggots, flies and insect-o-cutor) Hirst displayed a work that is even more transgressive in its materials – not only dead flesh but living creatures that are killed before one’s eyes – and which incorporates a new element, smell (or rather stench!).

Here is represented not just death but a whole cycle of life and death, a mini-ecosystem complete with breeding, feeding and human intervention.

If it is a spectacle which evokes disgust and nausea, then that too is part of its statement. It asks us to examine our responses.

Hirst’s Away from the Flock is a white lamb with black face and feet suspended in a white steel and glass tank. It serves as objective correlative for rather different ideas and emotions.
Titles usually play an important role with Hirst. The work itself interacts with its title to represent and evoke separation, isolation, loneliness and abandonment, especially as these might pertain to a child. As such it generates an acute pathos.

Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding works with a related theme but to different emotional effect.

It consists of a large glass cabinet containing six shelves and on each shelf is placed a row of six or seven perspex cases each containing a suspended fish, all ‘swimming’ head to tail.

Here the artwork presents an embodiment of individuals as part of a conformist collective yet all isolated and hermetically sealed from one another (a ‘series’ not a ‘fixed group’ in the language of Sartre). Of course it might be objected, à la Lukács, that this is a profoundly false view of life.

I would agree in a full analysis, but it is also the case that this is an important element of human experience in this alienated society and that here Hirst has succeeded in giving powerful visual expression to this experience. The construction, it should be said, is composed in terms of its ordering of forms and colours, possessing some of the visual qualities of a Mondrian or Klee. Emotionally what it induces is not pathos or sympathy but a cold-blooded chill.

Hirst’s  work Mother and Child Divided was not in the 1997 Sensations show but I want to comment on it because I think it is Hirst’s most important work and because it brings together a number of the themes from the other works in that show. It consists of a bisected cow and a bisected calf.

Each half of the cow is placed in its own glass tank and the tanks are adjacent to one another but with enough space to walk between the tanks and observe close up the insides of the cow.
The same is done with the halves of the calf but the two calf halves are placed several yards away from the cow. Of all Hirst’s pieces this is the one that seems to have made the biggest impact on the public consciousness and this in itself testifies to the power of its concept.

However, what is most impressive about it is the way in which it functions as objective correlative for a range of different almost conflicting ideas and emotions.

  1. First there is the confrontation with death and dead flesh.
  2. Then there is the ‘shock’ of the violence of the bisection (shock like the shock of Goya’s  etchings of Napoleonic mutilation of peasants, not the Chapmans’ crude facsimile in fibre-glass) and disgust and distaste at the exposure of the innards.
    But this works in tension with the knowledge that this is how we treat animals and this is what we eat as food. One does not need to be an animal rights supporter or vegetarian to feel the force of this, just as one does not need to be a pacifist to respond to Wilfred Owen: Hirst is merely insisting we face facts.
  3. Finally the title (again) and the placing of the cow/mother and calf/child evokes the pathos, despair and separation anxiety of Away from the Flock and Isolated Elements Swimming.

Mother and Child Divided has the integration of thought and feeling and the combination of complexity with visual and emotional power that is characteristic of major art.

Significant art no matter how ‘new’ or ‘original’, always turns out to be the next step in an ongoing tradition. Nevertheless Hirst, on examination, is seen to be the point of confluence of a number of artistic streams. Most immediately there is the influence of Francis Bacon in the themes of framed and caged flesh (and also a distant echo of Rembrandt’s great painting of a beef carcass, The Slaughter House).

In the use of ready made materials, in the making of art out of apparent anti-art moves, in the mix of playfulness and high seriousness, he is clearly an heir of Marcel Duchamp.The use of the glass case also looks back to Duchamp (The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, aka The Large Glass) and the vitrines of Joseph Beuys.
The white steel boxes expand the form pioneered by Sol LeWitt and the minimalists in the 1960s. 
And in the self conscious deployment of hype there is the unmistakable legacy of Warhol.

It is an art cliché that; reproductions cannot compare with the original works.
Often there is an element of myth involved here for the extent to which this is true varies greatly from artist to artist and work to work.
For example;  you can get a better idea of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from good reproductions than you can from the floor of the chapel. Gauguin, Miró and Mondrian reproduce excellently.
(Worth noting that works of art which became exceptionally well known – like the Mona Lisa, The Hay Wain, Monet’s Water Lilies, Munch’s The Scream, etc. – are often despised for this reason, but usually are powerful and important works in their own right.)

Van Gogh (because of the texture of the paint) and Pollock (because of the texture and the importance of the size) much less well.

With most paintings and some sculpture you get ‘a pretty good idea’ from quality modern reproductions.

This is not the case with much of Hirst’s work. The curvature in the glass in the shark piece and its visual effects do not appear in photographs.

The same is true of the flying and dying flies in A Thousand Years, not to speak of the smell, and you have actually to walk through the bisected cow and calf in Mother and Child Divided to experience its full effect.

In short, Hirst had to be seen first hand.

Whether this is a good or bad thing is a different debate but it is a fact which must be taken into account in discussing his merits.


I also wrote about Objective Correlative here:

and here: