It’s that spectacular time of year when artists from around the world unveil their energetic, intensely developed, and enchanting installations of art to Venice for the Biennale. Few artists are fonder of, or at least accustomed to, the spotlight than famed British artist, Damien Hirst. Most art enthusiasts are quite familiar with his earlier works of embalmed mammals and ocean life in tanks of formaldehyde.
This year he has delved beneath the surface in an entirely unforeseen fashion for his most recent exhibit– creating a background story of a freed-slave-turned-wealthy-art-collector in the first century, who loaded all his lavish artifacts onto a ship named “Apistos” (Greek for “Unbelievable”). The ship unfortunately sank to the bottom of the Indian Ocean and remained there for over 2000 years, until the site was discovered in 2008. Hirst’s installation is a display of the extraordinary finds that were excavated from the mythical “Apistos”.
Jean-Marc and Jean-Noël have come face-to-face this week with Hirst’s first public work in nearly a decade: “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable.” These new works are a fantastical rendering of wild imagination, mythology, ancient history, bizarre cultural references, and audacity.
Steeped in controversy from nearly the dawning of his career, Hirst’s art seems un-phased by the uproar in the current press from various international perspectives. Many of his works’ grandiose scale is no doubt what lead to their display in the palatial establishments of Francois Pinault: the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogane. One of the sculptures especially of note is the bronze “Demon with Bowl”– a headless body covered in barnacles and coral from its deep-sea tenure, towering three stories tall in the atrium of Palazzo Grassi. (You can watch the incredible timelapse of its construction here).
His art has transcended from post-mortem still life sculptures embalmed in so-called aquariums, into the conceptualized remnants of a fictional Atlantean-style civilization resurrected from the deep sea. One can hardly imagine a more appropriate setting for such an unveiling as the age-old waterways of Venice!