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Damian Hirst at the Tate Modern

Tuesday 24 April 2012
Words Alice Bell

Spots, dead animals and vast medicine collections. Oh, and a bit of bling of course.

In his first substantial retrospective exhibition in the UK, we are taken on a tour through over seventy of Damian Hirst’s artworks; from his early pieces, to the iconic and shocking works he is most famous (or infamous) for.

You will have probably seen most of these pieces before, but compiled together in this exhibition you can’t help but be moved by the process and concepts behind his work. Recurring themes of death and the fleeting nature of life are evident in every room – maybe forgotten momentarily when a live butterfly lands on you in In and Out of Love – but you are quickly reminded when you leave the specially maintained humid environment for the relatively cold Pharmacy in the next room. Butterflies appear in further works such as Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven; a triptych containing an intricate pattern of dead butterflies, made all the more haunting by their clear similarity to stained glass church windows.

A valuable exhibition certainly, for this equally loved and loathed artist. I almost forgot about the cynics who call him nothing but a business man, until taken though the exhibition shop at the exit. No, I do not want a clock with ‘spots’ in place of the numbers. Or a deck chair with dead butterflies printed on it.

Image: Damien Hirst
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living  1991
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2011
Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates