Visible Pig, 1984.
Black Spirit, 1985.
at larry gagosian
by Edward Helmore
Damien Hirst's circus of dismembered
livestock, spin paintings and a beach ball
held aloft by jets of air rolled into New
York on Friday, May 4 [to June 15], to an
art-world reception that has not been seen
in the naked city for years. The show,
which has delayed for six months over
objections by the Sanitation Department to
having rotting meat within their
jurisdiction, packed in the heavy-hitters
of Manhattan life and beyond.
"It's like a fairground isn't it," said
David Hockney, casting his eye over the
show's principal attraction of two cows cut
into slices and suspended sequentially in
12 formaldehyde-filled tanks. "This is like
the attraction of 3-D photography."
David Bowie, who likes to keep one of the
artist's pieces--a pocket-size pickled
fish--near him at all times, remarked that
the show marked Hirst's conquest of
America. "He made it an hour ago," he said,
an hour into the opening. "You won't see
him for dust now."
Frockmeister Gianni Versace and Vogue queen
Anna Wintour agreed that though desirable,
the 40-foot-long, revolving tri-vision
advertising hording, titled The Problems
with Relationships and depicting one
screen of Vaseline and a cucumber followed
by another of a hammer and peach, was too
big for their living rooms.
Gallery proprietor Larry Gagosian, who may
be America's most prominent contemporary
art dealer, enthused that the energy at the
opening "just came off the walls."
"It reminds me of the East Village in its
heyday or the Jean-Michel Basquiat show in
Los Angeles in 1982. This crosses all
borders because people respond to
authenticity and strength and it's a good
kick in the ass for American artists."
Later at a party, Hirst's London dealer,
Jay Jopling, attempted to explain the
triumph." He's made a show that is brash,
confident and, perversely enough, feels
very American. I hope people here are
provoked by the work as much as they are
back in England."
Though most of the pieces at the show are
new works, they derive from ideas that the
artist has already followed in European
"It's a celebration of the obvious because
every one of those pieces is something he
has done before but made larger," remarked
Clarissa Dalrymple. "The way that it is
installed has a maze-like quality."
Hirst, attended by his mother and sister,
was asked to clarify the title of the cow
piece, Some Comfort Gained from the
Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in
Everything. He said explained it simply by
noting that it was "worth a lot of money."
Meanwhile, Hirst's mother said that her
son's preoccupation with Lego as a child
had paid off. "It's exhilarating and I am
so proud. To me he's still my little boy."
Damian Hirst at Larry Gagosian, 136 Wooster
Street, till June 15, 1996.
Edward Helmore is the New York
correspondent for the London Observer.