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Must See Exhibitions

Posted By Tom on April 25, 2012

Meller Merceux’s hand-picked guide to what’s coming up in the contemporary art world

Top Exhibition: Damien Hirst, Tate Modern

Damien Hirst, Beautiful, childish, expressive, tasteless, not art, over simplistic, throw away, kid’s stuff, lacking integrity, rotating, nothing but visual candy, celebrating, sensational, inarguably beautiful painting (for over the sofa) (1996), © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2011. Photo: by Prudence Cuming Associates.

Since bursting into the public spotlight in 1988 with Freeze, a radical exhibition of installation art in a disused London warehouse, Damien Hirst has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. Now this gargantuan celebrity is taking a further stride towards enshrinement at the head of the art world with a major retrospective at Tate Modern.

The exhibition examines Hirst’s journey to stardom rather than simply reprising his greatest hits. Alongside the signature spot paintings and formaldehyde pieces, early works such as In and Out

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of Love, not shown in its entirety since 1991, allow visitors to reflect on the development of key themes in his work.

Hirst’s ability to woo trendsetting collectors such as Charles Saatchi is matched by his equal and opposing capacity to offend. A Thousand Years is on display, a vitrine containing a cow’s head which is slowly consumed by flies, typifying the artist’s disregard for traditional conventions of beauty. Self-avowed “craftsman” David Hockney has recently criticised Hirst’s industrial-scale use of studio assistants to produce his work. Yet it is precisely Hirst’s ability to provoke debate which sustains his desirable bad-boy image.

When he did revert to traditional media, exhibiting The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, a collection of brooding, funereal paintings, Hirst came in for a critical mauling. Adrian Searle described the work as a “memento mori for a reputation,” riffing on the artist’s preocuppation with mortality. Yet his prediction for Hirst proved unfounded, and the artist’s stock has continued inexorably to rise.

But while Hirst’s place in the establishment now seems secure, it’s also clear he has no plans to settle down into conventionality. With plans to build five hundred Devon eco-homes afoot, Hirst is planning to exhibit his personal art collection across six soon-to-be-opened London galleries. Establishment figure or not, Hirst shows no signs of resting on his laurels.
4 Apr – 9 Sept 2012

The Capture of the Westmorland, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Left top, Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787), George Legge, Viscount Lewisham, later 3rd Earl of Dartmouth (c. 1777), oil on canvas, 127 x 100 cm. Signed and dated: “Pompeo de Batoni Pinx Romae 1778.” © Museo Nacional del Prado.

An extraordinary feat of detective work lays behind this exhibition charting the dispersal of a precious cargo of artworks and antiquities after their seizure by French warships in 1779. Participants in the famous Grand Tour assembled the seabourne collections, which were en route to Britain but turned up in rival collections across Europe.
17 May – 27 Aug

Chiharu Shiota, Haunch of Venison, New York

Famed for her labyrinthine installation pieces, Chiharu Shiota is an internationally acclaimed artist whose immersive installations demand to be explored, rather than simply viewed. The Japanese artist has adopted Berlin as her home, and this show explores the city and its memories using an intricate web of reclaimed window frames illuminated from within.
17 May – 16 Jun

Top Read: Growing Up: The Young British Artists at 50

How do brash young art rebels settle into middle age? Revealing new interviews and previously unseen photos of artists like Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas allow Jeremy Cooper to reflect on the legacy of the YBA movement and assess the futures of artists who came to define contemporary art in the ‘90s and beyond.

Prestel, 2012

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