I always say [my work is] about life, but I don’t know, I suppose it does dwell on the dark side.
Gagosian is pleased to present Relics and Fly Paintings by Damien Hirst, the second phase of the artist’s yearlong takeover of the Britannia Street gallery, following the inaugural exhibition of Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures.
For this new iteration, the artist has clad the interior of the gallery in black butterfly-patterned wallpaper that reproduces the kaleidoscopic surface of his painting Valley of Death (2010). With its uniquely immersive atmosphere, the exhibition brings together a number of Hirst’s bodies of work, prompting reflections on themes of darkness and death, the past and the future.
Hirst’s Relics are memento mori: cast in bronze, they depict corpses, skeletons, and mummies in meticulous detail. Juxtaposing morbid realism with fantastical sources of inspiration, these bodies frozen in time emphasize the artist’s deft combinations of art, science, history, and religion. A suite of metallic Meteorites of various sizes continues Hirst’s engagement with the concept of the simulacrum and plays into the long-standing human fascination with outer space. The monumental sculpture The Martyr – Saint Bartholomew (2019) follows the historical tradition of depicting its subject flayed alive as an écorché figure study, balancing biblical devotion with a similar reverence for the human body. While Hirst’s sculpture is a nod to this centuries-old artistic practice, the holy man’s solid stance and gleaming figure are also reminiscent of a robot or a modern anatomical model.
Hirst incorporated real insects into his Fly Paintings, mining their myriad symbolic associations with cycles of life and the fear of death. Like much of his oeuvre, these paintings revel in startling dichotomies while harking back to various formal precedents; subjecting organic matter to the strictures of geometry, they evoke Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) and Richard Serra’s black paintstick drawings, among many other references. The Fly Paintings offer a hauntingly detached perspective on human existence that is at once microscopic and macrocosmic in its purview.
6–24 Britannia Street
London wc1x 9jd
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10–6 by appointment
Read the guidelines for visiting the Britannia Street gallery
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.