What Era Is Damien Hirst Talking About?

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Published February 1, 2010

PHOTO BY BRIENNE WALSH

 

End of an Era, Damien Hirst‘s latests exhibition of new works at Gagosian is a eulogy to an era that was dominated by, well, him—and a posse of millionaire-artist notables. The show featured paintings and sculptures that fetishize abundance of wealth (solid gold rings and the like) and conflate it with death. Judgment Day (2009) comprised a glass case plated in gold and lined with close to 30,000 manufactured diamonds. Perhaps the manufacturing of diamonds is meant to signal a triumph over nature, and inadequate condition for harvesters in Sub-Saharan Africa?

The gallery was filled with notable artist and non-artist guests (or were they to represent the living dead?) like Mick Jagger, Bono, James Franco and Takashi Murakami. They would all move on afterward to the 18th Floor of the Standard, New York’s architectural hope that the era isn’t actually quite finished. The title piece of Hirst’s exhibition featured a severed bull’s head with golden horns suspended in formaldehyde, a fragmented reference to the whole bodies featured in earlier of the artist’s works. While Hirst claims that the title refers to his decision to stop using formaldehyde in his art, it’s difficult not to recognize—or hope for—more critical implications.

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