People are afraid of change, so you create a kind of belief for them through repetition. It’s like breathing. I’ve always been drawn to series and pairs. A unique thing is quite a frightening object.
Since emerging onto the international art scene in the late 1980s, Damien Hirst has created installations, sculptures, paintings, and drawings that examine the complex relationships between art and beauty, religion and science, and life and death. From serialized paintings of multicolored spots to animal specimens preserved in tanks of formaldehyde, his work challenges contemporary belief systems, tracing the uncertainties that lie at the heart of human experience.
In 1988, while studying at Goldsmiths College in London, Hirst curated Freeze, a rolling exhibition in three parts, featuring his work and that of fellow students. This show is considered the debut of the artists who would come to be known as the Young British Artists, or YBAs, whose approach was characterized by a combination of entrepreneurial and oppositional attitudes, the use of found materials, and an interest in shock and spectacle. In the final iteration of Freeze, Hirst included two of his Spot paintings, which he painted directly onto the wall. The Spot paintings (1986–), of which there are now more than one thousand, present multicolored spots on white or near-white grounds and are painted by hand in glossy house paint. With these works, Hirst sought to paint as a machine yet allow for the subtle imperfections of the artist’s hand. In 2012 Gagosian showed more than three hundred Spot paintings at once across all eleven of the gallery’s locations.
Like many of Hirst’s series, the Spot paintings evoke various psychological and perceptual dichotomies: they are both calming and unnerving, beautiful and ordinary. A subseries, the Pharmaceutical paintings (1986–2011), features evenly spaced, multicolored circles. The title links these works to the medicine cabinets (1988–2012) and Visual Candy paintings (1993–95), all of which consider the cultural role of prescription drugs, the ways they are advertised, and the many promises that are made to their consumers. The medicine cabinets are filled with the empty packaging of various medications, highlighting the minimalist aesthetic of the boxes and plastic containers. The Visual Candy paintings push the idea of false promises even further. Alluding to movements including Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop art, they are exuberant, colorful paintings with euphoric, perhaps facetious, titles such as Happy Happy Happy (1994), Wowee Zowee (1993), and Super Silly Fun (1993).
In 1991 Hirst created The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living: a fourteen-foot tiger shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde. This work, part of the Natural History series (1991–2013), has become a landmark of contemporary art and exemplifies Hirst’s interest in bridging the gap between art and science. The Natural History series includes additional taxidermied animals, including sheep, cows, a zebra, a dove, and even a “unicorn”—some of which are bisected or flayed. That same year, in London, Hirst presented In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies), an exhibition featuring real pupas glued to white canvases. The pupas hatched in the gallery, releasing live butterflies into the space. In 1997 Hirst collaborated on Pharmacy Restaurant and Bar in London, for which he designed the interior, transforming his work into an immersive environment.
Since the early 2000s Hirst has produced ambitious, captivating works ranging from the kaleidoscopic butterfly paintings (2001–08)—made by placing thousands of butterfly wings in intricate geometric patterns onto painted canvases—to For the Love of God (2007), a platinum cast of a human skull set with 8,601 diamonds. Hirst’s first major retrospective, The Agony and the Ecstasy, was presented by the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy, in 2004, and he was recognized in 2012 with a major retrospective at Tate Modern in London. While his 2017 exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable filled the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice with monumental, fantastical sculptures made of precious metals and stones, covered in illusionistic barnacles, Hirst subsequently returned to the gestural immediacy of painting with the Veil paintings (2017–18), in which he continued his examination of color and its effects on the eye.
In 2015 Hirst opened the Newport Street Gallery in London, a realization of his long-term ambition to share his art collection with the public.
Extended through August 10, 2018
Colour Space Paintings
May 4–August 10, 2018
555 West 24th Street, New York
Extended through March 3, 2018
Visual Candy and Natural History
November 23, 2017–March 3, 2018
The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011
January 12–February 18, 2012
980 Madison Avenue, New York
The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011
January 12–February 18, 2012
555 West 24th Street, New York
For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.
Sydney Stutterheim meditates on the power and possibilities of small-format artworks throughout time.
In the Studio: Damien Hirst’s Veil Paintings
Damien Hirst speaks about his Veil paintings with Gagosian’s Alison McDonald. “I wanted to make paintings that were a celebration,” he says, “and that revealed something and obscured something at the same time.”
Damien Hirst: Visual Candy
James Fox considers the origins of Damien Hirst’s Visual Candy paintings on the occasion of a recent exhibition of these early works in Hong Kong.
Damien Hirst: Colour Space Paintings
Blake Gopnik examines the artist’s “dot” paintings in relation to the history of representation in Western art, in which dabs of paint have served as fundamental units of depiction and markers of objective truth.
The River Café Cookbook
London’s River Café, a culinary mecca perched on a bend in the River Thames, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2018. To celebrate this milestone and the publication of her cookbook River Café London, cofounder Ruth Rogers sat down with Derek Blasberg to discuss the famed restaurant’s allure.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
Art Basel OVR: Pioneers
Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers
March 24–27, 2021
One of a hundred selected galleries, Gagosian is pleased to present Innovate, Originate, Overturn: Modern and Contemporary Pioneers, an exclusive online project for Art Basel’s launch of OVR: Pioneers. The presentation will include works by Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Nam June Paik, and Rachel Whiteread.
Theaster Gates, American Tapestry, 2019 © Theaster Gates
FIAC Online 2021
March 2–12, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present Printemps oublié for the first online edition of FIAC. This curated presentation reflects the dual character of springtime as a reminder of past trials and the harbinger of a vibrant new season to come.
All the artworks will appear on the Gagosian website and a rotating selection will appear in the inaugural FIAC Online Viewing Rooms, from March 4 to 7.
Jeff Koons, Bluebird Planter, 2010–16 © Jeff Koons
Hong Kong Spotlight by Art Basel
November 27–30, 2020, booth S07
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in the inaugural Hong Kong Spotlight by Art Basel, the gallery’s third in-person art fair since the COVID-19 lockdown in March. Organized in conjunction with Fine Art Asia, the fair will present works from twenty-two Hong Kong–based galleries in a boutique setting. On view will be a range of thematic solo and group exhibitions, as well as films and specially curated art historical presentations.
Alex Israel, Wave, 2020 © Alex Israel
00s. Collection Cranford
Les années 2000
Through May 30, 2021
Mo.Co. Contemporary, Montpellier, France
This exhibition of work from the Cranford Collection, established by Muriel and Freddy Salem in 1999, aims to define the identity of the 2000s by creating a dialogue between one hundred artworks by a multigenerational array of artists who contributed to shaping the beginning of the millennium. Work by Glenn Brown, Damien Hirst, Mike Kelley, Albert Oehlen, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Franz West, and Christopher Wool is included.
Albert Oehlen, Schmilzender . . . , 2002 © Albert Oehlen. Photo: Jörg von Bruchhausen
End of a Century
October 7, 2020–March 7, 2021
Newport Street Gallery, London
End of a Century features over fifty early works by Damien Hirst, spanning his formative years as a student in the 1980s through the 1990s, when he became one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists. Featuring installations, sculpture, and paintings, some of which have not been seen before, the exhibition surveys a selection of Hirst’s most iconic series.
Damien Hirst, Up, Up and Away, 1997 © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2020
Al filo de la navaja
August 18, 2020–February 14, 2021
Museo Jumex, Mexico City
This exhibition, whose title translates to On the Knife’s Edge, brings together works by more than forty international artists. Comprising four thematic sections—migration and liberty, the human body, the environment, and the inexorable passage of time—the show aims to address the issues shaping our contemporary world. Work by Douglas Gordon and Damien Hirst is included.
Installation view, Colección Jumex: Al filo de la navaja, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, August 18, 2020–February 14, 2021. Artwork, front: © Dan Graham; ceiling: © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021
March 25, 2020–January 25, 2021
Musée du Louvre-Lens, France
This sensory exhibition, whose title translates to Black Suns, offers a fresh perspective on the color black, which has been endowed with a multitude of symbolic meanings in Western art from antiquity to the present day. The exhibition features nearly 180 works, intermingling periods and disciplines, and spanning painting, fashion, the decorative arts, the moving image, and installations. Work by Douglas Gordon, Simon Hantaï, and Damien Hirst is included.
Simon Hantaï, Etude I, suite pour Pierre Reverdy, 1969 © Archives Simon Hantaï/ADAGP, Paris, 2020. Photo: Claude Gaspari