Fancy dipping a toe back into gallery-viewing? Gagosian has just launched its new Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures, a free exhibition of rarely seen works by Damien Hirst created between 1993 and 2021.
It marks the first phase of Hirst’s year-long takeover of the Britannia Street gallery, and is his first in the space since the Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011 back in 2012.
Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures sees Hirst as both artist and curator, presenting a deeply personal series of work through his own eyes. At a moment when the idea of “truth” has never been more tenuous, he questions the obduracy of “fact” as a governing principle of society.
Mimicking colour photographs, the Fact Paintings are rendered in oil on canvas, sometimes with meticulous fidelity, at others revelling in the physicality of mark-making.
Their verisimilitude recalls the historical role of painting as a tool to represent the visible world and lead the viewer to believe that a two-dimensional image is, in fact, the three-dimensional object it portrays.
The first exhibition of the Fact series was presented at Gagosian New York in 2005 and focused on paintings derived from newspaper photographs. Other subjects include Hirst’s signature motifs of butterflies (pictured above) and diamonds, depictions of his own previous works, and portraits of his friends and family.
In the accompanying Fact Sculptures, Hirst constructs detailed replicas of real objects. Other sculptures attest to Hirst’s preoccupation with the order of things, their preservation and display: in Persil (2015) and Coke/Diet Coke Vending Machine (2007), a stacked pallet and a vending machine underscore the significance of consumer goods and product packaging, the high with the low.
Some of the sculptures on view are charged with relevance in the COVID-19 era. Remedies Against the Great Infection (2020) offers hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment, while sculptures such as Don’t Stop Me Now (2006) and Warsaw (2008), replete with medical supplies, take on new meaning within the context of the enduring pandemic. By incorporating these by-now-ubiquitous commodities into sculptures, Hirst speaks to the new landscape of material culture that has become a dark fact of contemporary life.
Image: Damien Hirst, Limenitis reducta in Vitis vinifera (2009)