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Damien Hirst invites to admire luxury treasures of the Unbelievable in Venice

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On Sunday, April 9, the public has finally got a chance to get to the Venice exhibition of the British Damien Hirst. During the past decade he had been creating his exhibits under the veil of secrecy. "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable" are placed at both spaces of the Pinault Foundation in Venice, the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana. The first time in the history the two Venetian venues of the Pinault Collection are dedicated to a single artist.

The exhibition is displayed as a multi-layered labyrinthine made of the treasures from a ship, sunk some 2,000 years ago, and discovered only in 2008 (coincidentally, the time of Hirst’s last career peak).
Damien Hirst, Hydra and Kali (two versions) and Hydra and Kali Beneath the Waves (underwater photography Christoph Gerigk).
Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
Damien Hirst, Hydra and Kali (detail). Photo: Andrea Merola / AP

51-year-old Damien Hirst is considered the richest living artist in the world. He is the most prominent member of the Young British Artists (Britart), the group dominating in the arts of the Misty Albion during the last quarter of a century. The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) showing a large vitrine containing an Australian tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde is a symbol of this association.




Left: Damien Hirst

"Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable" is a multi-layered labyrinthine bringing together sculptures, historical objects, photographs and film documenting the moment of discovery and salvage of the invaluable cargo. Allegedly, the ship went down off the coast of East Africa. The vessel was carrying a vast art collection, the property of a freed slave named Cif Amotan II. The collection contained artifacts from every civilization then known and was transported to a museum island where it would be placed on show. The ship sunk, and all her treasures remained undisturbed in the depths of the sea until their rediscovery in 2008. Now these marvels appeared before us.
Damien Hirst, Five Grecian Nudes, Five Antique Torsos, Grecian Nude (three versions).
Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
Each artwork in the show is made in an edition of three. One made to look like it is a treasure just dredged from the deep (a "Coral," in Hirst’s parlance); a second one made to look like the salvaged relic restored for display by modern restorers (a "Treasure"); and a third is displayed as a reproduction of the pseudo-historical object (a "Copy").
Damien Hirst, Skull of a Cyclops, Skull of a Cyclops Examined by a Diver (photography Christoph Gerigk).
Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
  • Damien Hirst, Skull of a Cyclops. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
  • Damien Hirst, Aspect of Katie Ishtar ¥o-landi. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
There are vast bronze warrior-goddesses, marble busts that resemble nothing of a kind as well as marmoreal Cyclops skulls, devotional figures, tombs, tableaux, urns, vitrines filled with shields, jewelry, and coins. Hirst used plenty of costly materials—malachite, gold, lapis, and jade to create a museum collection of artifacts, evocative of an ancient world’s far-reaching splendors.

Damien Hirst, The Severed Head of Medusa. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
Damien Hirst, The Severed Head of Medusa. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
Damien Hirst, The Sadness. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
For greater likelihood, many works were decorated with white worm casts and ‘coral' of improbable hue. In keeping with the shipwreck theme, large-format photographs and film footage show divers handling the works on the seabed of the Zanzibar Archipelago. According to Artnet.com, specialist salvage ships were hired on the Indian Ocean to lower and raise vast bronze works to and from the seabed.
Damien Hirst, Hydra and Kali Discovered by Four Divers. Image: Photographed by Christoph Gerigk © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
The Calendar Stone by Damien Hirst. Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images.



It worth mentioning that this carefully designed entourage has several familiar faces including Pharrell Williams, Kate Moss, Rihanna, and Die Antwoord singer YoLandi Visser, not to mention Mickey Mouse at the Punta della Dogana.

Damien Hirst himself appears in a bronze titled Bust of the collector "Cif Amotan II," alluding that he is both a creator and a collector of the art works.





Left: Damien Hirst, Unknown Pharaoh (detail). Apparently, model for this artwork is a US singer, rapper, producer, musician and designer Farrell Williams. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

Above: Damien Hirst, Sphinx ('Coral' version). Below: Damien Hirst, Sphinx ('Treasure' version). Both images: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
The New York Times reports that the major art dealers, the galleries White Cube and Gagosian, have already been shopping the works, at prices starting at $500,000 apiece and rising to upward of $5 million. However, like most of the facts at the exhibition, this information is hidden under the cover of secrecy.
  • Damien Hirst, Proteus. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
  • Damien Hirst, Jade Buddha. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
"Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable" is on display until 3 December 2017, the very same time when the art world comes to Italy for the 2017 Venice Biennale on 13 May-26 November, 2017.
Damien Hirst, Remnants of Apollo. Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
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Written by Vlad Maslow on material of news.artnet.com. Main illustration: Damien Hirst, Demon with Bowl (Exhibition Enlargement 16.5 meters high) in the grand atrium to the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
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