I wanted a shark that’s big enough to eat you, and in a large enough amount of liquid so that you could imagine you were in there with it.
Gagosian is pleased to present Natural History, the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Damien Hirst’s groundbreaking works employing formaldehyde. The exhibition—part of Hirst’s takeover of the Britannia Street gallery—will survey more than twenty of the most iconic examples, dating from 1991 to 2021.
Ever since he first exploded into the public consciousness in 1991 with The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a fourteen-foot tiger shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, Hirst has used the naturally occurring compound in many of his best-known works. Embodying his ongoing drive to bridge the gap between art and science, the Natural History series includes a variety of preserved animals, such as sheep, doves, a zebra, and even a “unicorn”—some of which are bisected, sliced into cross sections, or flayed. This exhibition, which features works spanning a thirty-year period, gathers many of these works together for the first time.
Beginning with The Impossible Lovers (1991), a cabinet filled with glass jars containing preserved cow’s organs, Natural History also includes works incorporating sheep (I AM ), fish (Saint Philip  and Love Is Blind ), calves (Cain and Abel  and The Ascension ), and, of course, sharks (Myth Explored, Explained, Exploded , among others). On view as well are complex tableaux such as The Pursuit of Oblivion (2004), in which animal carcasses are joined by other objects including knives and a chain mail glove. As their titles and components suggest, these arrangements combine strikingly unexpected variations on religious iconography with investigations of phenomenological and psychological facts and events.
Hirst’s use of formaldehyde allows him to present visceral, often disturbing objects in a knowingly cool, clinical style, adapting formal devices identified with Minimalism to a meditation on life and death, fact and faith. The heavy frames of the sculptures’ tanks have been a feature of his work since the 1990s in artworks such as A Hundred Years and A Thousand Years (both 1990). Hirst’s vitrines are rooted in the fear of fragility, and in a consequent desire to isolate and protect. Yet ultimately, far from proposing formaldehyde as an effective medium for preserving objects and the ideas they convey, Hirst concludes that the very idea of preservation is futile in the face of inevitable death.
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Truth Revealed: Damien Hirst and James Fox on Ashley Bickerton
In conversation with James Fox, Damien Hirst reflects on the artwork of his longtime friend.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2021
The Fall 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Damien Hirst’s Reclining Woman (2011) on its cover.
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.
London Gallery Weekend 2022
Damien Hirst, Cristina Iglesias, Titus Kaphar, Richard Prince
May 13–15, 2022
As part of London Gallery Weekend, Gagosian will have extended hours at all London locations, including the Gagosian Shop in Burlington Arcade, where visitors can browse Richard Prince artist’s books, posters, and other merchandise as part of his Shop takeover. Visitors can view the exhibitions Cristina Iglesias at Davies Street, which opens on Saturday, May 14; Titus Kaphar: New Alte̲rs: Reworking Devotion at Grosvenor Hill, before it closes on May 15; and Damien Hirst: Natural History at Britannia Street.
A range of activities will be offered, including exhibition tours and drop-in drawing hours for visitors of all ages, in addition to treats from Connaught Patisserie and Treats Club. In its second year, London Gallery Weekend is a free annual event featuring over 150 of the city’s leading contemporary art galleries coming together to celebrate culture and creativity.
Installation view, Titus Kaphar: New Alte̲rs: Reworking Devotion, Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, March 17–May 15, 2022. Artwork © Titus Kaphar. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Extended through April 16, 2022
Forgiving and Forgetting
January 20–April 16, 2022
541 West 24th Street, New York
Emergency Paintings, Danger Paintings, Hazard Pictures and Seizures
October 5, 2021–February 5, 2022
Britannia Street, London