Damien Hirst’s hotly anticipated exhibition in Venice—slated to open to the public on April 9—has been hyped by many as the YBA’s triumphant return to the limelight following several years of market and critical decline. Indeed, three weeks ahead of the opening, the artist is making headlines once again but for all the wrong reasons.
On the night of March 6, some 40 kilograms of animal dung were dumped at the doors of one of the exhibition’s venues, the Palazzo Grassi, along with a banner that read “Damien Hirst Go Home! Check Out This Work of Art! 100% Animalisti.”
On its website, 100% Animalisti, the animal rights group behind the action, explained that Hirst “is one of those fake artists (like Hermann Nitsch andMaurizio Cattelan, whom we have already taken care of) who build their ephemeral fortunes on the use of animals—stuffed, quartered, often killed for the occasion—as the ‘material’ of their performances.”
Hirst’s exhibition, titled “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” will be staged between the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, the two Venice venues of the François Pinault Foundation.
It’s Hirst’s first major solo show in Italy since his 2004 retrospective at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples.
The ambitious project—10 years in the making according to press materials—doesn’t feature any dead sharks or other animals floating in formaldehyde, although it does entail a return to oceanic themes.
In a few images and video teasers for the show, a group of sunken sculptures covered in algae and surrounded by shoals of fish can be seen, dramatically illuminated, at the bottom of the sea.
Image from Damien Hirst's “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable.” Photo Christoph Gerigk, ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
According to iNews, a spokesman for Palazzo Grassi said that no animals would be involved in the exhibition.
But for the animal rights group, when it comes to Hirst, the damage is already done. In their statement, translated by artnet News, they said:
Hirst is famous for exhibiting slain animals […] and for the use of thousands of butterflies whose wings are torn and glued on various objects. Death and the taste of the macabre serve to attract attention. Then wealthy collectors such as Saatchi and even the prestigious Sotheby’s artificially inflate the prices of Hirst’s junk. It’s a squalid commercial operation based on death and contempt for living and sentient beings.
[Hirst’s exhibition in Venice] is a further insult to a city of Art, of REAL Art. 100% Animalisti is against the commercial use of the life of our animal siblings.
by Lorena Muñoz-Alonso