Damien Hirst is in the news again. Since his sale at Sotheby’s in 2008, which marked both the high point of his career and the start of his downward slide, the art world has examined his every gesture. Following an initial comeback in 2015 with the opening of his own gallery (see Damien Hirst Opens His Own Gallery in London), now he is preparing his return to museums.
He is putting together a large exhibition in Venice (his first since 2004), which will be held simultaneously in Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana. Called Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, it will open on 9 April. For the moment it is all very mysterious; all we know is that it has taken the artist ten years of work to stage it. A few enigmatic images and two short videos on the website show sculptures lost at the bottom of the ocean. According to the New York Times, the show will bring together 250 objects of different size. It also reports that not even Hirst’s most faithful collectors have had the chance to see the works and have had to make do with pictures on an iPad. Yet another way to stimulate curiosity about the project.
However, the exhibition is not to the taste of everyone. The Italian association 100% Animalisti unfurled a banner in front of Palazzo Grassi that read “Damien Hirst Go Home”, accompanied by 40 kilos of horse manure. The association’s activists criticize Hirst for having exhibited killed animals on several occasions. The artist is in fact famous for having used a tiger shark in his work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, for having cut a cow in two for Mother and Child (Divided), and for having had 9000 butterflies killed at the Tate for his installation In and Out of Love. At the time, British animal rights associations were also up in arms about it.
For his Italian exhibition Hirst promises that no animal will be harmed, but that doesn’t alter anything for 100% Animalisti. They have promised to continue to protest against the exhibition from now until it closes.