This year Torbay Council is borrowing art from Tate National and the Arts Council Collection for an exhibition for the Spanish Barn, Torre Abbey that includes a work by one of the world’s most intriguing, infamous and controversial artists.
Following on from the staggering success of Antony Gormley’s Field For The British Isles installation last year, a work by Damien Hirst is set to literally, divide opinion.
Cllr Dave Butt, Torbay Council said:
It is a controversial piece of art which will stir debate and inspire visitors and local communities. I hope this will build on the success of last years Gormley exhibition which helped generated hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of press coverage and investment from visitors, and inspired so many schools, attractions and individuals to get involved. Damien Hirst is such a well known artist and this is a fantastic opportunity for not just for Torre Abbey, but the whole of the Bay. It will help boost the council’s long-term plan to be an exciting space for contemporary art and a leading light amongst seaside cultural hotspots.
The work is a floor-based sculpture, weighing 6.5 tonnes (the weight of a London Routemaster bus) comprising a cow and a calf, each cut in half and preserved in a pair of glass-walled tanks in a formaldehyde solution. Mother and Child, Divided was created for exhibition at the 1993 Venice Biennale and was subsequently the focal point of the 1995 Turner Prize at Tate Britain (then The Tate Gallery), the year that Hirst won the prize.
Damien Hirst said:
What do you do if an animal is symmetrical? You cut it in half, and you can see what’s on the inside and outside simultaneously. It’s beautiful. The only problem is that it’s dead … In a way, you understand more about living people by dealing with dead people. It’s sad but you feel more … a viewer should be intrigued. The work should attract you and repel you at the same time … cows are the most slaughtered animals ever … I see them as death objects. Walking food … What’s sad is that if you look at my cows cut up in formaldehyde, they have more personality than any cows walking about in fields.
Caroline Collier, Director, Tate National said:
Each year Tate lends many hundreds of works from its collection to a wide range of exhibitions in Britain and across the world. As part of this programme, we are delighted that we have been able to agree to the loan of Damien Hirst’s Mother and Child, Divided ( Exhibition Copy) for the exhibition at Torre Abbey.
It will form part of a free exhibition in the Spanish Barn. The piece has been lent to the English Riviera on the back of the success of the Gormley exhibition and the reputation the resort is gaining in the art world. It’s anticipated the exhibition will open seven days a week, including some late evenings, from July 4 to August 30, but the date has yet to be finalised.
Facts about Damien Hirst:
- Born in Bristol in 1965, Hirst grew up in Leeds and now divides his time between his home in Devon and work in London. Hirst got an E in his art A-Level and failed to get into St. Martin’s in London before being accepted into Goldsmith’s on their Fine art BA. While a student, Hirst had a placement at a mortuary, an experience that influenced his later themes and materials.
- While still at Goldsmiths, Damien conceived, organised and promoted an exhibition called Freeze featuring work by himself and 16 of his fellow Goldsmith’s’ students. This is widely believed to have been the starting point for the “Young British Artists” movement and led to Charles Saatchi to begin to collect his work.
- In 1990, Charles Saatchi bought Damien’s A Thousand Years, a cow’s head infested with maggots, which become flies, and die. A year later, Saatchi offered to fund whatever artwork Hirst wanted to make. The resulting work was titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living a shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine, which sold for £50,000. It became the iconic work of British art in the 1990s and the symbol of Britart worldwide.
- The central, though not exclusive theme of Hirst’s work has been an exploration of mortality, a traditional subject that Hirst has updated and extended with wit, verve, originality and force. He is best known for The Natural History series, of which Mother and Child, Divided forms a central part.
- Hirst’s work has prompted demonstrations, letters of protest and even some threats. While the negative reaction to his work is perhaps understandable, it is not necessarily warranted, as the animals he uses are purchased from slaughterhouses, and many have died of natural causes.
- His own attitude towards the animals is emotionally distant. They are “so deadened by their transparent aqua tombs that it becomes difficult to reconcile what they look like with the reality of what they really are. In this respect, they are as distant from cows or pigs as the filling of a Big Mac or BLT”.
- In 1994 his piece Flock, was exhibited at the Serpentine gallery in London. A rogue artist, Mark Bridger, walked into the gallery one day and poured black ink into the tank and re-titled the work ‘Black Sheep’. He was later prosecuted and the sculpture restored.
- He has designed cover art for albums by the Eurythmics, and in 1995 he directed a music video for the Blur song “Country House.” In 1996, the year after he won the Turner Prize, he was part of an art and film exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, where he showcased his first short film called “Hanging Around”. The film featured music by several of his pop star friends and starred Eddie Izzard.
- Hirst’s original design for the cover of the BAND AID 20 single was snubbed by record executives who were concerned that it might scare young children. The double-sided design featured a grim reaper with an emaciated African child perched on its knee. On the flip side was a Santa Claus with a white child holding a wad of notes.
- Hirst was a member of the band Fat Les along with Alex James from Blur and actor Keith Allen. They created the England national football anthem “Vindaloo” as an unofficial theme song for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He also designed the set for Glastonbury, a play about the legendary festival also starring Lilly Allen’s dad, Keith.
- Hirst is reputed to be the richest living artist in the world. In September 2008, he took an unprecedented move by selling a complete show, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, atSotheby’s by auction. The auction raised £111 million, breaking the record for a one-artist auction as well as Hirst’s own record with £10.3 million for The Golden Calf, an animal with 18-carat gold horns and hooves, preserved in formaldehyde.
What’s your opinion on Damien Hirst and his work? Are you going to attend the Spanish Barn exhibiton?