Damien Hirst Is Back With an Underwater Fantasy. Will Collectors Care?
It’s a giant financial gamble for art’s king of controversy, who is trying for a comeback.
By CAROL VOGEL
“Aspect of Katie Ishtar ¥o-landi.” Credit Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2017; Photograph by Prudence Cuming Associates
VENICE — Damien Hirst is staring into the eyes of a jade Buddha, its face seemingly abraded by the vestiges of time. “I think he looks damn good, considering he’s 2,000 years old,” he said, straining to keep a straight face. Nearby, the sculpture of a pharaoh fashioned from blue granite and displaying a gold nipple ring bears an uncanny resemblance to Pharrell Williams.
Is the face really that of the singer? “You could say that,” Mr. Hirst responded. “It’s all about what you want to believe.”
After years of uncharacteristic silence, this artist known for his love-it-or-hate-it artworks is orchestrating his own comeback. On a recent morning, dressed all in black, Mr. Hirst could be found in the soaring entrance of the Palazzo Grassi watching his crew put the finishing touches on an extravaganza worthy of Cecil B. DeMille — his first major show of new work in 10 years. Opening to the public on Sunday, April 9, and called “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” it is an underwater fantasy, with sculptures like the Buddha and hundreds of other objects fashioned to look as though they were antiquities dredged up from the bottom of the sea. The works will fill the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana, two museums run by François Pinault, the Parisian collector who is also the owner of Christie’s auction house.