Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Seeing the Damien Hirst exhibition at Tate Modern

Damien Hirst  Sympathy in White Major - Absolution II  2006 (Detail)  Butterflies and household gloss on canvas  
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2012. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates

Could the reason that Damien Hirst is forever sensational, lie in how he combines the intense impact of his work with a tendency to replace the value of his work with monetary value, as if it were all only a game.The news of the current exhibition at Tate Modern was quite the topic even in Japan. We can speculate at the extent of attention considering the special feature put together by the popular art journal BT / Bijutsu Techo.
Furthermore, the commercial facility Hikarie which opened recently in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, houses the Koyama Tomio Gallery, which opens with the exhibition of Hirst’s Spot Paintings. News of this gallery space, which is effectively broadening the playing field, comes together with news of the Tate Modern exhibition

This exhibition is a lineup of masterpieces which, while opposing money and art in one way, in fact maintain a clever balance by looking to their value. The rotting cow’s head, the maggots spilling out of it; flies being born and then hitting the electrical insect killer, making sizzling sounds as they burn to death. Life born from death perishes in another instant before your eyes. The viewer experiences more than enough unpleasantness, and an immense impact. But Hirst’s work does not let the impact end there. It moves around life and death and directly connects to the fundamental themes of art; moreover the work connects to the art market, where it is transferred into monetary value.

At the time of the work’s first showing, he must have been showered in criticism. Now, fifteen years later, the image is known so widely that we can remember it and think, I want to see that work at least once. We can properly call Hirst the darling of the art world, the one which structured an era. It even produced the very peak, bringing work that is simply structured and displaying high quality. No one will disagree that this exhibition will allow us to appreciate Hirst’s masterpieces to our hearts’ content.

However if one were to ask if we got to know Damien Hirst any better, the answer would have to be in the negative. Whether the question of how he forms such distinct concepts as he has from the beginning, or of the sublimation of the process into the work, or the secret of the system that mass-produces such high quality pieces, you will not find the answers at this exhibition. I was expecting content that would show a glimpse of some expression or idea concerning that work. But considering the monetary value of his work has yet to fall, the Tate exhibition must just be another step in raising that value as far as the artist is concerned. Perhaps he wants to keep the thought of a grand exhibition to verify his artistry in the future a little longer, in which case I understand this exhibition. So I shall keep my own excitement for the next such a grand exhibition, in the future as well.

The Tate Modern exhibition on Damien Hirst will be open until September 9th.

Tate Modern
Bankside London SE1 9TG
Opening times:
Sunday – Thursday, 10.00–18.00
Friday – Saturday, 10.00–22.00