Damien Hirst at The Lever House Art Collection

January 13th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Artists, New York City

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It never fails: the first thing I think when I see a Damien Hirst is — sheesh, that’s a big budget. The scale of his work is mind-boggling, and the commission he made for The Lever House, School: The Archeology of Lost Desires, Comprehending Infinity, and the Search for Knowledge, boasts that swagger that’s made him a superstar.

The installation is a “school room” of glass tanks full of sheep carcasses attached to hospital hoses with a single shark and some live canaries among them. Leading the “class” is a large tank containing two sides of beef, an umbrella, birdcage and an armchair — direct references to the Francis Bacon and Rene Magritte paintings below.

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Rene Magritte, The Healer, 1936 and Francis Bacon, Head Surrounded by Sides of Beef (Study After Velasquez), 1954

Damien Hirst’s School… has more conceptual density than some of his other work, and this is not a good thing. There is so much going on — rows of dead sheep, live birds, an operating room’s worth of medical equipment, ashtrays under every object, clocks running backwards, stacks of sand, a paragraph-like title — that his poetry becomes belabored.

The two works Hirst references have no need for spelled-out exegesis. Those great painters both allow their subjects to breathe, to have some wiggle room, and to ultimately work out their concepts in a sensitive, interior dialogue in which only the most interested viewers might engage. If only Hirst could have learned that same lesson under their tutelage.

Damien Hirst
School: The Archeology of Lost Desires, Comprehending Infinity, and The Search for Knowledge
Lever House Art Collection, New York
November 12, 2007 – February 9, 2008

Category: Artists · New York City

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