I give myself the same Christmas present every year; an annual membership (myself plus guest) to the Tate. As a fan of contemporary art this enables me to swan around all four Tates as I choose, taking friends willy-nilly into exhibitions that are otherwise £10-15 per ticket, as often as I like throughout the whole year. And I can then retire to the Members' Room and people-watch until my feet recover. Bargain.
The Damien Hirst exhibition (until 9th September) at the Tate Modern covers over twenty years of the no-longer-quite-so Young British Artist's work, so off I went to take a look.
The exhibition opens with the forerunners of his famous Spot paintings; cheerfully-coloured boxes and pans from Hirst's student days. It's like looking at pictures of a celebrity when they were a baby - then in the next room you're straight into the flip side of the Hirst fame coin, mortality and death. A severed cow's head surrounded by flies - themselves living and dying in the (thankfully) enclosed space - dominates the room; not only visually, but get too close and you can smell it. Hirst himself called it 'a nasty piece' that simultaneously pulls you in and pushes you away; somehow it made me think of the people who slow down on the motorway to gawp at an accident on the other side.
diamond-encrusted skull) could be viewed together with a brief explanatory background video, for free in the Turbine Hall. Sadly, this display has since been closed. There was a bit of a queue, but it was worth it; death has never been more beautifully dressed.
Hirst is frequently attacked as a purveyor of 'con art' - art which is both conceptual and cons people. I don't pretend to be any kind of expert on art; when I go to an exhibition I just wander around and see what happens, and on the whole I enjoyed this one. For those who sneer at his iconic spot paintings and say 'I could have done that', I just smile and say 'But you didn't, did you?' (Of course some would say actually neither did Hirst - but that's another story!)
Girl About Town xx