damien hirst retrospective at tate moderndamien hirst    the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living, 1991 glass, painted steel, silicone, monofilament, shark and formaldehyde solution photographed by prudence cuming associates © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

 

damien hirst retrospective tate modern, london april 4th to september 9th, 2012

 

 

the tate modern in london is the first british institution to host the most intensive survey of artist damien hirst‘s work. known for his provocative art practice, the tate presents approximately 70 works which span the course of more than 20 years of his creative practice, including the first spot painting he produced while still a student at london’s goldsmiths college, to his ‘natural history’ installations featuring animals displayed in vitrines of formaldehyde.

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern damien hirst    the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living, 1991 glass, painted steel, silicone, monofilament, shark and formaldehyde solution photographed by prudence cuming associates © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

it was 1991 when hirst first began working with the chemical, to develop what has probably become his most iconic body of work. for the ‘naturalhistory’ series, the artist’s intention was to create a zoo of dead animals, drawing on the fact that the appeal of them lied in their visual impact.

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living image © designboom

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern exhibition view image © designboom

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern damien hirst    a thousand years, 1990 (installation view) glass, steel, silicone rubber, painted mdf, insect-ocutor, cow’s head, blood, flies, maggots, metal dishes, cotton wool, sugar and water photographed by prudence cuming associates © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

a thousand years is the first of hirst’s works in which an arrangement of components is enclosed within a glass vitrine.within its confines a life cycle is played out. maggots hatch inside a minimal white box, develop into flies, then feed on severed cow’s head on the floor of the vitrine. above, hatched flies circle around in the enclosed space. many meet their end on an insect-o-cutor; others survive to continue the cycle. hirst takes the principle of bringing real objects into the gallery a step further in this work, creating a literal enactment of birth, death and decay. while the glass vitrine alludes to the clean geometry of minimalism, it is filled  with the messy life and death of organic matter.

‘it was the first time I’d ever made anything that had life of its own… something that I had no control over’ – damien hirst.

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern a thousand years image © designboom

  damien hirst retrospective at tate modern crematorium, 1996 cigarette butts in an over-sized ashtray image © designboom

 

crematorium, a disproportionately large ashtray filled with cigarette butts and ash, can be seen as a contemporary memento mori, a reminder of the inevitability of death. what appears to be a lifetime’s accumulation of the detritus of smoking can also be seen to double as the cremated remains of a human body.

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern damien hirst pharmacy, 1992 glass, faced particleboard, painted MDF, beech, ramin, wooden dowels, aluminium, pharmaceutical packaging, desks, office chairs, foot stools, apothecary bottles, coloured water, insect-o-cutor, medical text books, stationary, bowls, resin, honey and honey dimensions variable tate photographed by prudence cuming associates © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

re-creating his 1992 cohen gallery installation of ‘pharmacy’, hirst outfits a gallery of the tate with glass-fronted cabinets, those which are typically found in laboratories or hospitals. each unit is stocked with pharmaceutical drugs which the artist has strategically arranged according to the model of the body – i.e. the medication on the top shelves are for the head; the middle for the abdomen; those situated on the bottom shelves reserved to treat foot ailments.

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern damien hirstpharmacy, 1992glass, faced particleboard, painted MDF, beech, ramin, wooden dowels, aluminium, pharmaceutical packaging,desks, office chairs, foot stools, apothecary bottles, coloured water, insect-o-cutor, medical text books, stationary,bowls, resin, honey and honeydimensions variabletatephotographed by prudence cuming associates© damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern damien hirst    lullaby, the seasons 2002 (detail) glass, stainless steel, steel, aluminium, nickel, bismuth and cast resin, coloured plaster and painted pills with dry transfers photographed by prudence cuming associates © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern damien hirst in and out of love (white paintings and live butterflies) – installation view, 1991 primer on canvas with pupae, steel, potted flowers, live butterflies, formica, mdf, bowls, sugar-water solution, fruit, radiators, heaters, cool misters, air vents, lights, thermometers and humidistats dimensions variable private collection, courtesy white cube photographed by prudence cuming associates © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

on the occasion of this retrospective, hirst has refabricated his two-part installation piece ‘in and out of love’,  seen for the first time since its initial exhibition within disused travel agents more than twenty years ago. in this section of the show, viewers pass through a room of live butterflies – hatching, mating, laying eggs and eventually dying – before entering a room filled with a series of the artist’s butterfly monochrome paintings.

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern butterfly monochrome paintings butterflies and household gloss on canvas image © designboom

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern close-up of butterfly monochrome painting butterflies and household gloss on canvas image © designboom

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern damien hirst    sympathy in white major – absolution II  2006 (detail) butterflies and household gloss on canvas photographed by prudence cuming associates © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

accompanying the retrospective, within the tate’s immense turbine hall, is ‘for the love of god’ (2007) – a platinum cast of a human skull set with 8,601 flawless pavé-set diamonds, housed within a special chamber. it is the first time the sculptural work is viewable in the UK since its initial exhibition at the white cube in 2007.

 

damien hirst retrospective at tate modern portrait of damien hirst photography by billie scheepers © damien hirst and science ltd. all rights reserved, DACS 2012

 

the exhibition is sponsored by the qatar museums authority and forms part of the london 2012 cultural olympiad.